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India passes the billion-dose milestone of Covid vaccine


India has administered a billion doses of Covid-19 vaccine.

About 75% of India’s total eligible adult population has received at least one dose, while about 30% are fully immune, officials said.

The country of nearly 1.4 billion people is the second to exceed one billion cumulative doses after China, the most populous country, did so in June.

Coronavirus cases have fallen sharply in India since the devastating months earlier this year when the highly transmissible variant Delta, first detected in the country a year ago, was infecting hundreds of thousands of people daily.

People get vaccinated against coronavirus in Hyderabad, India (AP)

India confirmed more than 18,400 new cases on Thursday. Active cases represent less than 1% of its total caseload, now more than 34 million, including more than 450,000 deaths, according to the Ministry of Health.

Authorities have stepped up the vaccination campaign in recent months, which experts say has helped control the epidemic. The country began training in January.

Still, there remains a worrying gap between those who have only received one injection and those who are fully immune.

Increasing the second dose is “an important priority,” said VK Paul, head of the country’s Covid-19 task force.

“We would like to see that number increase. Full coverage is absolutely essential, ”he said.

India said earlier it aims to vaccinate all eligible adults by the end of the year, but experts say the current pace of vaccination will need to increase to meet that target.

Health workers celebrate administration of 1 billion doses of Covid-19 vaccine in India
Health workers celebrate the administration of one billion doses of Covid-19 vaccine in India (Rajanish Kakade / AP)

Billboards announcing the achievement with a photo of Prime Minister Narendra Modi were displayed across New Delhi. Outside the house of a local city politician, locals gathered to hand out candy.

Officials said they would mark the milestone in vaccination centers and hospitals where frontline workers will be celebrated.

India, a major supplier of vaccines to the world, halted exports in April as cases in her country increased and did not resume exports until early this month. The government is now optimistic that the increase in the country’s vaccine supply will be sufficient to cover its international and national commitments.

The two main suppliers have increased their production, with the Serum Institute now producing around 220 million doses per month and Bharat Biotech around 30 million, Paul said.

Serological surveys carried out in June and July showed that more than 60% of the population had antibodies against the coronavirus, reducing the likelihood of another massive outbreak in the months to come, according to some experts.

Members of India's ruling party hand out sweets
Members of India’s ruling party distribute candy to celebrate the administration of one billion doses of vaccine (Altaf Qadri / AP)

Even states where infections were swelling a few weeks ago, such as Kerala, have seen a steady decline.

“There is a sense of comfort that India has suffered the worst of the Delta variant, but this has to be accompanied by a sense of caution,” said K Srinath Reddy, President of the Public Health Foundation of India.

“Even if cases increase, we are unlikely to see the scale of the outbreak sooner – if it did, it would be quite unexpected.”

In recent months, life in India has returned to normal. The markets are bustling with activity, tourists can enter the country after a 19 month hiatus, and it is preparing to celebrate Diwali, the Hindu Festival of Lights.