India Celebrates Billion Doses of COVID Vaccine with Song and Movie | Coronavirus pandemic News

India has administered a billion doses of the COVID-19 vaccine, a milestone after a slow start, even as a recent drop in vaccinations worries the government and healthcare providers.

Health Minister Mansukh Mandaviya will launch a song and audio-visual film at the Mughal-era Red Fort in New Delhi on Thursday to “celebrate this historic milestone,” his ministry said.

The country has already injected 998.5 million doses, including nearly 90 percent of the AstraZeneca vaccine produced nationally by the Serum Institute of India.

“I call on all unvaccinated Indians to get vaccinated quickly and to contribute to our historic golden vaccination journey,” Mandaviya said on Twitter.

The government was reportedly set to celebrate this milestone with Prime Minister Narendra Modi thanking health workers, special announcements at train stations and airports, and monuments illuminated in national colors.

The government wants all 944 million Indian adults to be vaccinated this year. Currently, 75% of them have received at least one dose and 31% have received two.

However, hundreds of millions of Indians under the age of 18 – who make up about 40 percent of the population – have not received a single injection.

A volunteer sticks up a poster informing that all adult members of this house are fully vaccinated against COVID-19, in the village of Nizampur on the outskirts of New Delhi [File: Manish Swarup/AP]

India has so far reported 34.1 million cases of COVID-19 and more than 452,000 deaths, most during a second wave of Delta variant infections that swept across the country between April and May.

A “significant number of people in India did not take their second dose on schedule despite adequate supplies,” the health ministry said on Tuesday, as new infections fell to their lowest since early March.

Daily injections have averaged 5 million this month, a fifth of September’s peak, although states have record stocks of more than 100 million vaccines as domestic production of the AstraZeneca vaccine soars.

Despite the current low number of infections, ministry officials have urged people to get vaccinated quickly, especially as the current festival season means family reunions and mass shopping, increasing the risk of a new wave of infections.

Drop in COVID cases

India suffered a huge spike in cases in April and May, reporting more than 400,000 infections and 4,000 deaths a day, with many hospitals unable to cope and crematoriums overwhelmed.

Cases have declined sharply since, with less than 20,000 infections per day, and most activities have returned to normal.

Mumbai, one of India’s myriad of teeming cities, recently reported zero deaths in one day for the first time since the start of the pandemic.

Most activity restrictions have been lifted, with crowds celebrating India’s main religious holiday season – a significant time for the struggling economy – for the first time in two years.

This sparked concerns about a new wave of infections and further pressure from the government to push people to get vaccinated for the second time.

Media reported last week that a group of experts from India’s drug regulator recommended the use of local Covaxin – one of seven COVID-19 vaccines approved in India – for those under 18.

“I think it’s unlikely that we will see a third wave that in any way resembles the second wave,” said Dr Gangandeep Kang, of Christian Medical College in Vellore.

“The only situation where this can happen is if we have a brand new variant of the virus. It will then be a new pandemic, ”she said.

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