India administered its 1 billionth dose of the COVID-19 vaccine on Thursday, the health ministry said, six months after a devastating spike in cases that raised fears of a collapse of the country’s healthcare system.
According to the government, about three-quarters of adults in this country of 1.3 billion people have received an injection and about 30% are fully immunized.
However, hundreds of millions of Indians under the age of 18, representing about 40% of the population, have not yet been vaccinated.
India experienced a very high peak in April and May, recording more than 400,000 infections and 4,000 deaths per day. Many hospitals, overwhelmed by sick people, have not been able to cope and crematoria have been overwhelmed.
Since then, cases have dropped dramatically, with fewer than 15,000 infections per day, and most activities have returned to normal.
Mumbai, the economic capital of India, recently recorded a day without COVID-related deaths for the first time since the start of the pandemic.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi thanked health professionals. Special announcements were made at stations and airports, and monuments were illuminated in national colors to celebrate this milestone.
To celebrate the event, Health Minister Mansukh Mandaviya is required to present a new song performed by singer Kailash Kher and an audiovisual production at the Red Fort, a historic site in New Delhi.
“Congratulations to India! This is the result of the capable leadership of the visionary Prime Minister Modi, ”he tweeted.
“Open your eyes”
India is the second country to have administered 1 billion doses after China, which injected more than 2.3 billion according to Beijing.
India started vaccinations in January and, after a slow start, now injects around eight million doses a day.
“During the first wave, I remember hearing people wonder if the coronavirus was real or not,” said Reham Ali, a 49-year-old taxi driver in New Delhi who says he received an injection.
“Now people know that it is and there are fewer doubts. The second wave opened our eyes, ”he continues.
Vaccine exports, halted at the beginning of the year, have temporarily resumed and authorities say the “world’s pharmacy” will be back in full swing in 2022.
With most restrictions lifted, crowds were able to celebrate India’s main religious holiday season this month for the first time in two years.
However, the festivities raised concerns about a new wave of infections and the government encouraged the population to inject a new dose.
Last week, a group of experts from the Indian Medicines Regulatory Authority recommended the use of Covaxin, one of the seven COVID-19 vaccines approved in India, for those under 18 years of age.
“I think it is unlikely that we will see a third wave that in any way resembles the second wave,” said Dr. Gangandeep Kang, of the Christian Medical College in Vellore, in the state of Tamil Nadu.
A scenario that, according to him, could only occur “if we have a completely new variant of the virus.” Then it will be a new pandemic, “he told AFP.
Officially, India has recorded just over 34 million infections and around 452,000 deaths since the onset of the pandemic, although this number is widely considered to be grossly underestimated.
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