Six months after India began the world’s largest vaccination drive, it has administered jabs to just over five percent of its population.
It’s currently vaccinating around four million people every day, but it needs to give about eight to nine million jabs a day to vaccinate everyone who is eligible by the end of this year.
Despite a promising start in January, the drive has lagged in recent months because of low supply and delays in approving new vaccines.
Most countries, especially those in the developing world, have struggled to access vaccines – a challenge that India, as the world’s largest vaccine maker, didn’t expect to face.
But Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government didn’t place orders from vaccine makers early enough – and a devastating second wave in April pushed them to expand the drive too quickly to the entire adult population, which is nearly a billion.
How is India’s rollout going?
Since 16 January, India has administered more than 390 million doses.
Some 315 million people have received the first dose and 79 million have received both doses so far.
On Friday, India reported 38,949 new Covid cases – less than a tenth of its caseload at the peak of the second wave in early May.
But doctors say that a third wave is inevitable given that the country has fully reopened even as the threat of new variants looms large.
The drop in the average number of daily vaccine doses is also worrying experts.
And there is a gender gap – government data shows 14% fewer women are getting vaccinated. This is especially true in rural India where women have limited access to the internet and are hesitant or scared to take the vaccine.
Although a higher number of doses are being administered daily in rural areas, the share of population being vaccinated in urban areas is still greater.
“Why is our country’s vaccine programme faltering even after so many days?” asked capital Delhi’s deputy Chief Minister, Manish Sisodia, as he reported on Tuesday that the city had run out of doses, forcing many government-run centrs to shut.
In June, the federal government told the Supreme Court that 1.35 billion doses will become available between August and December. It would take about 1.8 billion doses to vaccinate all eligible adults in India.
In an affidavit in the court, the government presented the projected availability of five vaccines:
-500 millions doses of Covishield
-400 million doses of Covaxin
-300 million doses of a vaccine from Indian firm Biological E
-100 million doses from Sputnik V
-50 million doses of ZyCov-Di, being developed by Ahmedabad-based Zydus-Cadila
But supply shortages persist – and reports say that the drive is likely fall short of its targets in July.
Which vaccines is India using?
India is using three vaccines – the Oxford-AstraZeneca jab, known locally as Covishield; Covaxin by Indian firm Bharat Biotech; and Russian-made Sputnik V.
The government has also authorised Indian pharma company Cipla to import Moderna’s vaccine, which has shown nearly 95% efficacy against Covid-19. But it’s not clear yet how many doses will be made available to India.
Several more vaccines are in various stages of approval.
Vaccination is voluntary. State-run clinics and hospitals are offering free jabs, but people can also pay 250 rupees ($3.4; £2.4) for a dose at private facilities.
The government is spending around $5bn to provide free doses at state-run clinics, public health centres and hospitals
Have there been ‘adverse events’ after vaccination?
People can experience side effects from vaccines.
India has a 34-year-old surveillance programme for monitoring “adverse events” following immunisation. Experts say a failure to transparently report such incidents could lead to fear-mongering around vaccines.
India has reported more than 23,000 “adverse events” after vaccination as of 17 May. Most of them were classified as “minor” – anxiety, vertigo, giddiness, dizziness, fever and pain.
It also examined 700 cases of “severe adverse events” and reported 488 deaths until mid-June.
But the government said the this did not mean they were due to vaccination, adding that “the risk of dying following vaccination is negligible compared to the known risk of dying due to Covid-19 disease”.
Charts by Shadab Nazmi