Despite banning all exports in April and benefiting from a large vaccine manufacturing industry, India has only covered 4% of its vast population, lagging well behind the majority of the Western world and China, which is deploying roughly 20 million doses each day.
New Delhi officials were overjoyed earlier this week when India set a new single-day record by providing over 8 million Covid-19 immunizations. Experts fear that even at this breakneck speed, a country just recovering from a deadly second wave may not be able to prevent a third. They also doubt that the current drive, which is averaging around 4.6 million doses every day, up from roughly 3 million for the past month, can be sustained.
India has significant obstacles in speeding up its vaccination campaign. Two local producers are now producing less than 100 million doses per month, which is insufficient to cover the country’s almost 1.4 billion inhabitants. There is also substantial reluctance to overcome and practical obstacles in accessing most of India’s rural, where more than two-thirds of the population lives.
The joy among government officials is reminiscent of India’s coronavirus vaccine programme, which began in January. PM Modi termed his country “the world’s pharmacy” after sending out millions of doses in a short-lived round of vaccine diplomacy.