NEW DELHI (AP) — India has administered 1 billion doses of COVID-19 vaccine, officials said Thursday, passing a milestone for the South Asian country where the delta variant fueled its first crushing surge earlier this year.
About 75% of India’s total eligible adult population have received at least one dose, while nearly 30% are fully immunized. The country of nearly 1.4 billion people is the second to exceed a billion cumulative doses after the most populous country China did so in June.
Coronavirus cases have fallen sharply in India since the devastating months at the start of the year when the highly transmissible delta variant, first detected in the country a year ago, was infecting hundreds of thousands daily, sending COVID-19 patients into overwhelmed hospitals and filling cremation grounds.
Officials have bolstered the vaccination campaign in recent months, which experts say have helped control the outbreak since.
Still, there remains a worrying gap between those who have received one shot and those fully immunized. Ramping up the second dose is “an important priority,” V K Paul, the head of the country’s COVID-19 taskforce, said at a briefing last week.
“We would like to see this number go up. Complete coverage is absolutely critical,” he said.
India, an important supplier of vaccines globally, halted exports in April as cases at home surged and only resumed exports earlier this month. The government is now optimistic that the country’s vaccine supply, which has seen a rise, will be enough to cover its international and domestic commitments. Both of the two main suppliers have ramped up production, with the Serum Institute now producing around 220 million jabs a month and some 30 million from Bharat Biotech, Paul said.
On Wednesday, India confirmed over 14,000 new cases. Its active cases make up less than 1% of its total caseload, now more than 34 million, including over 450,000 deaths, according to the health ministry.