India has shipped over 5.84 crore doses of indigenous Covid-19 vaccines to 70 countries, as against 3.48 crore jabs it has administered across the country since the inoculation drive began on January 16.
The data on exports of 583.85 lakh doses — furnished by junior health and family minister Ashwini Kumar Choubey in a written reply in the Rajya Sabha on Tuesday — assumes significance as the goal of vaccinating millions of Indians could fall behind given the existing rate of vaccination, experts told TOI.
The highest number of vaccinations in a single day — over three million shots — was recorded on March 15.
Besides, the recent surge in Covid-19 cases in some states, including Maharashtra — raising fears that they could already be in the grip of a second wave — has led to a demand for expediting vaccinations across the country by covering those outside the priority population.
Several health experts and doctors as well as CEOs, including Mahindra Group chairman Anand Mahindra and Biocon executive chairperson Kiran Mazumdar Shaw, have urged the Centre to speed up vaccinations of the general population to counter the surges.
“Vaccinations need to be increased rapidly. A scale of four or five of what we are doing today should be the minimum goal. The government should consider much greater private sector involvement and outreach vaccinations to get vaccines to the vulnerable. No doses should be wasted. So, while we continue to vaccinate the priority population, all excess vaccines should be utilised on non-priority populations. Where cases are increasing or are predicted to increase, we should consider all-age vaccination in defined high-risk areas,” recommended Gagandeep Kang, a professor at Christian Medical College, Vellore.
Health economist Rijo M John felt that vaccinations need to be ramped up to at least 3.8 million doses a day to reach the target of 600 million doses by August. “If the supply of doses is comfortable in certain states and the vulnerable population has been given the jab, then it can be opened up for other age groups.”
At present, vaccinations at government facilities in most states are available only four days a week.
The government kicked off its vaccine diplomacy programme in January, days after launching the countrywide immunisation drive. It said it had received multiple requests for Indian-manufactured Covid-19 vaccines from many countries.
“Keeping in view the domestic requirements of the phased rollout, India will continue to supply Covid-19 vaccines to partner countries over the coming weeks and months in a phased manner,” it had said then, adding that it will ensure that manufacturers will have adequate stocks to meet domestic needs. On Tuesday, Choubey reiterated this assurance. TOI