India passes key vaccination milestone after relaxations – Metro US

India passes key vaccination milestone after relaxations

FILE PHOTO: COVID-19 vaccination in Mumbai
FILE PHOTO: COVID-19 vaccination in Mumbai

NEW DELHI (Reuters) – India administered 1.4 million vaccine doses in the past 24 hours, health ministry data showed on Friday, the highest in a day since the campaign began in mid-January as the government moves to address initial hiccups.

The country of 1.35 billion people still has to nearly double its current rate of vaccination to meet its target of covering 300 million people by August. The two vaccines in use in India need to be administered in two doses, four to six weeks apart.

India has so far given 18 million doses to about 15 million people.

The vaccination pace increased this week after Prime Minister Narendra Modi kicked off an expansion of the drive to include the elderly and those aged 45-59 suffering from medical conditions.

The government has also roped in many private hospitals, allowing them to run vaccinations throughout the day and assuring there is no shortage of shots in the world’s biggest vaccine-making country.

Unlike earlier when health and frontline workers had to get their shots in assigned vaccination centres, people are now free to choose their site.

Modi, 70, on Monday opted for Bharat Biotech’s government-backed vaccine COVAXIN, although most people are getting the shot licensed from AstraZeneca. The next vaccines in line for regulatory approval are Russia’s Sputnik-V and Cadila Healthcare’s ZyCoV-D.

India reported 16,838 new COVID-19 cases in the past 24 hours, taking the total to 11.2 million, only behind the U.S. tally of about 29.5 million. Deaths rose by 113 to 157,548.

(Reporting by Krishna N. Das and Philip George; Editing by Stephen Coates)