India Crosses 220-Crore Covid-19 Vaccination Mark, Health Minister Announces

India’s Covid-19 Vaccination: Over 220 crore Covid-19 vaccine doses have been administered in India, as of 8:00 am IST on Monday, December 19, 2022. Union Health Minister Mansukh Mandaviya made this announcement on Twitter on Monday, adding that under the leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the government is constantly striving to make ‘a safe and healthy India’. 

Mandaviya also wrote that India’s Covid-19 vaccination campaign is a proof of the country’s capability and strength.

According to data provided by the Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, a total of 2,20,00,44,678 Covid-19 vaccine doses have been administered as of 8:00 am IST on Monday. The number of active Covid-19 cases in India is 3,559. As many as 4,41,41,854 people have been discharged after recovering from Covid-19, as of the above mentioned date. 

On December 18, a total of 61,701 Covid-19 tests were conducted. 

‘Massive global failures’ in COVID response led to millions of preventable deaths worldwide

According to a Lancet Covid-19 Commission report published on September 15, 2022, ‘massive global failures’ in response to Covid-19 in the first two years of the pandemic led to millions of preventable deaths worldwide. The failure in the response also reversed progress made towards the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in many countries. 

The report cited widespread failures of prevention, transparency, operational cooperation, rationality, International solidarity, and basic health practice that resulted in an estimated 17.2 million deaths, including those not reported.

The Lancet report is based on the estimates of Covid-19 infections and deaths made by the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME). According to the IHME, there were 6.9 reported deaths and 17.2 million estimated deaths as of May 31, 2022. 

Indian government previously dismissed reports of Covid-19 deaths in country being underreported

The Indian government had previously dismissed earlier reports that the number of Covid deaths in the country was being underreported.

Earlier this year, The New York Times reported that WHO had estimated that by the end of 2021, India could have had more than three million deaths in excess of the number actually reported. The Lancet, meanwhile, had put India’s death Count at four million. On both occasions, the government responded with a statement, disputing the numbers and questioning the methodology used.

Underreporting of deaths was most notable in India during Delta wave, Lancet report said

The new Lancet report too referenced previous studies that concluded India’s count was being underreported.

According to the Lancet report, the underreporting of deaths was perhaps most notable in India during the delta wave from March to July, 2021. India was among the first countries to impose travel restrictions, suspend international flights, and implement a strict lockdown early in the pandemic, the report said. India had 654 cumulative confirmed cases of Covid-19 in March 2020. The adopted restrictions aimed to prevent community transmission.

The lockdown was relaxed at the end of May, 2020. During June and July, India saw a surge of Covid-19 cases. The Indian government relaxed most controls early in 2021 because case counts had decreased by the end of the year. 

Which factors led to increased Covid-19 infections in India in March 2021?

In March 2021, two factors combined to markedly increase the number of infections, the report said. The first factor is that the highly infectious delta variant emerged, and other variants of concern arrived from other countries. The second factor is that several events in the country, including election, religious festivals, and public protests, brought large groups of people together. Moreover, most participants in the events did not wear face masks. 

The combination of new variants and crowds had a devastating impact on India, the report stated. The delta surge gathered momentum in March 2021. Within weeks, hospitals were overwhelmed. Due to breakdowns in the medical supply chain, there was a severe shortage of oxygen, hospital beds, and pharmaceuticals, the report said. Large numbers of patients were untreated in smaller towns and rural areas. 

Between January 1 and June 30, 2021, India reported roughly 20 million Covid-19 infections and 2,50,000 deaths attributed to the novel coronavirus. But the actual numbers are estimated to be vastly higher, the report stated. In December, 2020, and January, 2021, the seroprevalence of Covid-19 IgG antibodies in non-vaccinated individuals older than six years was 24 per cent. The value increased to 62 per cent in June and July, 2021. This confirmed that millions of people were infected during the delta wave.

IHME estimates of Covid-19 infections and deaths in India

According to the Lancet report, the IHME estimates that there were around 417 million infections and 1.6 million deaths from Covid-19 in India between April 1 and July 1, 2021, compared with just 18 million reported cases and 2,52,997 reported deaths. 

According to another study, between 3.1 million and 3.4 million deaths from Covid-19 are estimated to have occurred in India between the start of the pandemic and September 1, 2021. Meanwhile, 4,40,000 deaths from Covid-19 have been reported as of September 1, 2021. The figures suggest that the reported death count was roughly 14 per cent of the actual value, the report stated. 

Covid-19 cases decreased markedly and vaccination efforts accelerated after the delta surge. As of September 1, 2022, more than 76 per cent of the eligible population of India had been vaccinated with a single dose and more than 70 per cent were fully vaccinated. Despite the surge of the Omicron variant in January, 2022, hospitalisation rates and deaths remained low, the report said.

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