Even if India opens up COVID-19 vaccination for everyone above 18 years of age, it will take another six to seven months to vaccinate the entire country

Even if India opens up COVID-19 vaccination for everyone above 18 years of age, it will take another six to seven months to vaccinate the entire country
Representative image of COVID-19 vaccine being administered in IndiaBCCL
  • A new study by Tata Consultancy Services (TCS) and the National Institute of Industrial Engineering (NITIE) recommends doling out vaccines to everyone above the age of 18 years from April 15.
  • Estimates show that it would still take another six to seven to vaccinate the whole country at a rate of 2.5 million doses a day.
  • Keeping the second wave of infections in check won’t only reduce the number of active cases but also reduce the impact of a potential third COVID-19 wave.
In April, India began to vaccinate everyone above the age of 45 years but that still leaves a large chunk of its population out of the loop. Even if the country was to open up its vaccination programme to everyone above the age of 18 years from April 15, it would still hypothetically take another six to seven months to vaccinate the whole country.

Tata Consultancy Services (TCS) and the National Institute of Industrial Engineering (NITIE) ran a study with numbers of the best case scenario with 2.5 million vaccine doses being administered daily. Their research shows that India needs to speed up its vaccination drive across the country if it hopes to come out ahead of the second wave of infections.

In the last 24 hours, India has recorded a whopping 104,000 new COVID-19 cases, which is higher than ever before. The last biggest surge was on 17 September 2020 when 97,894 infections were recorded in the span of a single day.

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According to TCS and NITIE, keeping the second wave of infections in check won’t only reduce the number of active cases but also reduce the impact of a potential third COVID-19 wave.

The need to cover more of the Indian population
The Indian government began the roll out of its massive vaccination drive on January 16, this year. So far, it has managed to distribute around 7.9 million doses of the vaccine for its 1.21 billion strong population.

It should also be kept in mind that COVID-19 vaccinations are a double-dose exercise. So many of the patients, especially those above the age of 60 and 45 who were only just initiated into the programme, are yet to receive their second dose.

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TCS and NITIE recommend that India should prioritise and accelerate the vaccination for the 130 districts, which were identified as ‘red zones’ during the first wave of the pandemic.

“Once the vaccination is opened up for everyone above 18 years, around 230 million people — assuming 80% coverage — need to be vaccinated at the rate of 2.5 million per day across these 130 districts,” said the report.

Beyond these 130 districts, it will take another six to seven months to vaccinate the remaining population of around 490 million people above the age of 18 years.

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Even if India opens up COVID-19 vaccination for everyone above 18 years of age, it will take another six to seven months to vaccinate the entire country
Hypothetical simulation run by TCS InsightsTCS/NITIE

The above example shows how the results would vary across a suburban Mumbai district with a population of 10 million and an infected population of 20,000. The red curve shows how the second wave of COVID-19 would play out with no vaccinations. Meanwhile, the best case scenario is depicted by the green curve and assumes 80,000 vaccines being administered per day.

The key difference between the two extremes is that the peak of COVID-19 infections as well as the time it takes for the infection to subside is drastically different.

CurvePeakNumber of days to reach tail-end of the curve
Green70,000 cases140 days
Red 20,000 cases60 days

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“Clearly, rapid vaccination will not only reduce the peak cases but will significantly arrest the growth of disease,” said the report.

For vaccines to be available to all individuals above the age of 18 years and maintain a rate of 2.5 million doses per day, the report believes that India needs to open all delivery channels like round-the-clock vaccination centres, vaccinating through non-Ayushman Bharat hospitals and clinics, and bringing pharmacies into the loop.

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