India’s next big daily Covid vaccination record – after 88.09 lakh on June 21 and 1.03 crore on August 27 – is likely to be on Friday, when leaders of the ruling BJP have been urged to promote the jabs and state officials told to double the daily rate to celebrate Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s 71st birthday,
Top officials now accept they are aiming for a record on the Prime Minister’s birthday.
“He is our Prime Minister… on his birthday we will try to make a fresh daily vaccination record,” Dr Sujeet Singh, the Director of the National Centre for Disease Control, told NDTV.
The push for a new daily record on the Prime Minister’s birthday comes amid intense scrutiny of vaccination numbers, and with the focus on an ever-growing target – currently around 1.2 crore doses per day – to inoculate at least 60 per cent of the population by December-end.
While a large part of efforts to boost numbers for the day will likely come from BJP-ruled states (or those ruled by its NDA allies), the worry is if the larger states – which must deliver big numbers to ensure a record is set – are withholding vaccines in the build-up to Friday.
Back in June – when Madhya Pradesh set a national record by administering nearly 17 lakh vaccines in a day – the day before those numbers only 4,098 people were jabbed.
n Bihar, for example, fewer than 87,000 doses were administered till 5 pm, according to data from the government’s CoWin dashboard.
For the week ending September 10 it gave over 48.1 lakh doses. For the week starting September 11 (which ends Friday, with the PM’s birthday), fewer than 25 lakh doses have been given so far.
Like Dr Singh, Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar has also acknowledged a “huge vaccination drive” will be carried out on Friday and said, “we are getting ready for that”.
“It is the Prime Minister’s birthday on the 17th… on that day we will carry out a huge vaccination drive across Bihar. We are getting ready for that,” Mr Kumar said yesterday.
In Uttar Pradesh – another of the ‘big’ states ruled by the BJP, and where less than seven per cent of the population in India’s most populous state is fully vaccinated – government sources say the aim is to “significantly better its single-day record”.
That record is around 35 lakh doses, and it was set last week.
To reach that target camps are planned for Ballia in the eastern part of the state, where less than two lakh people have been vaccinated. Ballia’s population is around 30 lakh.
“We will have a special campaign in place for September 17… there will be 192 vaccination centres on the day and targets will be fixed soon,” Dr SK Tiwari, the district’s Acting Chief Medical Officer, said.
In central UP’s Kannauj, officials say the Friday target is 26,000 doses – double the district’s daily numbers. As of 5 pm Wednesday, fewer than 2,100 doses were given.
As with Bihar, for the week ending September 10 UP administered over 92.5 lakh doses. For the week ending September 17, so far, only 34.75 lakh doses have been administered.
Dips in Bihar and UP are mirrored in other states – including Madhya Pradesh, Karnataka and Gujarat; the latter state administered over 36 lakh doses between September 4 and 10, and fewer than 11 lakh from September 11 to today.
Overall, the seven-day average of doses administered has gone from nearly 60 lakh at the start of September to below 50 lakh today.
Ultimately, record vaccination numbers are good, even critical, if a country of over 130 crore people is to be fully protected against the coronavirus.
But this will need a sustained and daily focus on vaccine delivery rather than one-day records.
Focus on vaccination also comes as top government officials continue to warn of a third wave of infections from existing variants of the virus, as well as further possible mutations.
Concerns have also been expressed over the forthcoming festival season and possible disregard for Covid safety rules, which triggered a wave of infections this time last year.