India fully vaccinates 3.42 lakh health workers while larger population still to get first dose

In India over 342,000 healthcare workers are now protected from the Coronavirus infection after they got their second and final dose of the vaccine. A month after vaccinations began, India has seen a noticable decline in new COVID-19 cases, while in Maharashtra that trend appears to be breaking in after fresh spikes this week.

The pace of vaccinations is gradually picking up, but government data on the second doses may be of concern. While 786,000 persons had received their first dose in the first five days of the vaccination drive, only 43% of them turned up for the second dose in the five days after 13 February.

Meanwhile, the total number of vaccine doses given in India reached 9.4 million as of 17th February. Nine states have given at least one dose to more than 75% of their healthcare workers, with Bihar (85%), Tripura (82%), and Odisha (82%) leading the way, the health ministry said. This is less than 50% in eight states, including Tamil Nadu and Punjab.

As a share of population, Delhi (12 doses per 1,000 population) has the best coverage as of Wednesday, followed by Jammu and Kashmir (12), Uttarakhand (11) and Gujarat (11). Nationally, this figure stands at only 6.8, even though India’s total vaccination count is the fourth highest in the world. Israel has already vaccinated more than 30% of its population, shows data from Our World in Data.

One reason India lags is that it has prioritised only healthcare and frontline workers in the first phase. A much larger section of the population—the elderly and those with comorbid conditions—are due to start getting their shots in March.