One Billion Doses: A Master Stroke

100 crore is not only a figure, it reflects the country's capability
One Billion Doses: A Master Stroke
A health worker administers COVID-19 vaccines to a local in Srinagar.File: Mubashir Khan/GK

To combat the biggest pandemic in 100 years, India now has a strong protective shield of 100 crore vaccine doses. This achievement belongs to India, efforts of Narendra Modi, our health workers, scientist, doctors, nurses, sanitation staff; all those who worked day and night as a team during this deadly virus.

100 crore vaccine dose is not only a figure, it is also a reflection of the country's capability. A new chapter in history is being created. This is the picture of that new India, which knows how to set difficult goals and achieve them. We are witnessing the triumph of Indian science, enterprise and collective spirit of 130 crore Indians.

The cumulative COVID-19 vaccine doses administered in the country under the governance of Narendra Modi and brilliant efforts of our health workers surpassed the 100-crore milestone on Thursday. According to official sources, around 75 per cent of India's all eligible adult population has been administered at least the first dose and around 31 per cent has received both the doses of the vaccine. India took 85 days to touch the 10-crore vaccination mark, 45 more days to cross the 20-crore mark and 29 more days to reach the 30-crore mark. The country took 24 days to reach the 40-crore mark from 30-crore doses and then 20 more days to surpass the 50-crore vaccination mark on August 6. It then took 76 days to go past the 100-crore mark, thanks to everyone who was involved in this fight against this deadly virus.

India has completed vaccination of 100 crore doses on October 21, 2021. In just about nine months since starting vaccination. This has been a tremendous journey in dealing with COVID-19, especially when we recall how things stood in early 2020. Humanity was dealing with such a pandemic after 100 years and no one knew much about the virus. We remember how unpredictable the situation appeared then, as we were faced by an unknown and invisible enemy mutating rapidly.

It has been truly a great effort involving multiple sections of society. To get a sense of the scale, assume that each vaccination took just two minutes for a health-care worker. At this rate, it took around 41 lakh man days or approximately eleven thousand man years of effort to reach this landmark.

One of the reasons for the success of the campaign was the trust that people developed in the vaccine and the process followed, despite various efforts to create mistrust and panic. There are some among us who only trust foreign brands, even for simple every day necessities. However, when it came to something as crucial as the COVID-19 vaccine, the people of India unanimously trusted ‘Made in India’ vaccines .

India’s vaccine drive is an example of what India can achieve if the citizens and the Government come together with a common goal in the spirit of Jan Bhagidari. When India started its vaccination program, there were many people who doubted the capabilities of 130 crore Indians. Some said India would take three to four years. Some others said people will not come forward to get vaccinated. There were those who said there will be gross mismanagement and chaos in the vaccination process. Some even said that India will not be able to manage supply chains.

But just like the Janata Curfew and subsequent lockdowns, the people of India showed how spectacular the results can be, if they are made trusted partners.

When everyone takes ownership, nothing is impossible. Our health-care workers traversed hills and crossed rivers across difficult geographies to vaccinate people. Our youth, social workers, health-care workers, social and religious leaders, all deserve credit for the fact that India faces minimal vaccine hesitancy when compared to even developed nations.

There was a lot of pressure from different interest groups to give preferential treatment to them in vaccination like other schemes. No VIP culture in the vaccination.

Till today, only a handful of countries have developed their own vaccines. More than 180 countries are dependent on an extremely limited pool of producers, and dozens of nations are still waiting for the supply of vaccines, even as India has crossed 100 crore doses. Imagine the situation if India did not have its own vaccine. How would India have secured enough vaccines for such a large population and how many years would that have taken. It is here that credit should be given to Indian scientists and entrepreneurs for rising to the occasion. It is due to their talent and hard-work that India is truly Aatmanirbhar when it comes to vaccines. Our vaccine manufacturers, by scaling up to meet the demands of such a large population, have shown that they are second to none.

In a nation where governments used to be known as a roadblock, impeding forward movement, our government has instead been an accelerator and enabler of progress. The Government partnered with the vaccine makers right from day one and gave them support in the form of institutional assistance, scientific research, funding, as well as accelerated regulatory processes. All Ministries of the Government came together to facilitate the vaccine makers and remove any bottlenecks as a result of our ‘whole of Government’ approach.

In a country of the scale of India, it is not enough to just produce. Focus has to be on last mile delivery and seamless logistics. To understand the challenges involved, imagine the journey taken by one vial of vaccines. From a plant in Pune or Hyderabad, the vial is sent to a hub in any of the States, from where it is transported to the district hub. From there, it reaches a vaccination centre. This entails the deployment of thousands of trips taken by flights and trains.

During this entire journey, the temperature has to be maintained in a particular range which is centrally monitored. For this, over one lakh cold chain equipments were utilised. States were given advance notice of the delivery schedule of the vaccines so that they could plan their drives better and vaccines reached them on the pre-decided days. This has been an unprecedented effort in the history of independent India.

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