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India: Covid-19 cases increase, vaccination accelerates


A beneficiary is vaccinated by health workers during a pan India Covid-19 vaccination campaign at the Aundh District Hospital on January 16, 2021 in Pune, India.

Pratham Gokhale | Hindustan Times | Getty Images

India has reported more than 100,000 new cases of Covid-19 over a 24-hour period for the third time this week as the most populous country in South Asia continues its vaccination campaign.

There were 126,789 new cases reported on Thursday, according to government data. More than 80% of those cases came from ten states, including the hard-hit western state of Maharashtra, home to India’s financial capital Mumbai.

Since the start of April, India has reported more than 779,000 cases, with Maharashtra accounting for just over half of them.

Maharashtra local authorities have stepped up restrictions, including nighttime curfews where only essential services are allowed to remain open. Other states are also preemptively increasing restrictions as concerns grow over a potential shortage of hospital beds and doctors.

Shortage of vaccines

India’s mass vaccination campaign, which began in January, has gained momentum in recent weeks. From April, anyone over 45 is eligible for their photos. Government data showed that as of Thursday, more than 90 million doses of the vaccine had been administered.

But the media reported this week that several states, including Maharashtra, have warned they are running low on vaccine stocks at a crucial time when cases are climbing rapidly.

In response, the Indian government accused some states, including Maharashtra, of deflecting attention from their inability to control the virus outbreak.

“Vaccine supplies are monitored in real time and state governments are regularly informed about this,” said Minister of Health Harsh Vardhan said in a press release Wednesday. “The vaccine shortage claims are baseless.”

Good distribution is necessary

Serum Institute’s “ stressed ” production capacity

But the Serum Institute of India, which makes one of the country’s two approved vaccines – AstraZeneca shot, known locally as Covishield – takes a different view.

Adar Poonawalla, Director of the Serum Institute told Indian media that the company’s production capacity is “very stressed”. He said the vaccine maker needed around $ 400 million to increase its capacity by June.

He revealed to the Business Standard that AstraZeneca had sent Serum Institute a legal notice for delay in supplying vaccines abroad. In February, Poonawalla said that his company had been run to prioritize India’s vaccine needs and called on foreign governments to be patient.

Guleria said other manufacturers who make vaccines are being asked to participate and help speed up production. He added that India may soon approve a third vaccine – the Russian-made Sputnik V, which will be produced by pharmaceutical company Dr Reddy’s Laboratories.



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