But it is aiming to lift itself out of the crisis in the coming months with a massive vaccination drive — covering in its first phase almost as many people as the entire US population.
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government has identified 300 million people to receive the first doses of the vaccines. The priority group is made up of 30 million health care workers, policemen, soldiers and volunteers, and 270 million vulnerable people — mostly citizens above the age of 50 and 10 million others with serious comorbidities.
The producers of three leading coronavirus vaccine candidates have applied for emergency use authorization, and all of them require two doses to provide sufficient immunity. That adds up to a total of 600 million shots, and Modi’s government wants to complete the whole process by August.
That’s an incredibly ambitious undertaking, especially for a developing country with poor rural infrastructure and an inadequate public health system that is already buckling under tremendous pressure from the coronavirus.
But India also has its own advantages. As a global hub for vaccine manufacturing, its mass production lines can churn out coronavirus vaccines — developed either by Western pharmaceutical companies or domestically — faster and cheaper than most other countries.
“Every single Indian who needs to be vaccinated will be vaccinated,” Indian Health Secretary Rajesh Bhushan said at a news conference on December 8.
Which coronavirus vaccines will be rolled out first?
Of the three Covid-19 vaccine candidates pending approval from Indian regulators, two are being manufactured locally in India.
One of them is Covishield, a vaccine developed by Oxford University and AstraZeneca and produced by the Serum Institute of India, the world’s largest vaccine maker.
The other is India’s first homegrown coronavirus vaccine, Covaxin, developed jointly by Bharat Biotech and the government-run Indian Council of Medical Research.
Pfizer India has also applied for emergency use authorization for the coronavirus vaccine developed by Pfizer and BioNTech, Dr VK Paul, head of the national expert group on Covid-19 vaccination, confirmed to CNN.
Adar Poonawalla, CEO of Serum Institute of India, said his company is currently producing 50 to 60 million doses of Covishield per month, and production will be scaled up to 100 million doses a month after January or February.
Read More News: How India plans to vaccinate 300 million people against Covid-19