Prime Minister Narendra Modi receives the second dose of the Covaxin vaccine at AIIMS hospital in New Delhi on Thursday. AFP
India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi received his second dose of the COVID-19 vaccine as the country hit another peak on Thursday with 126,789 new cases reported in the past 24 hours.
"Vaccination is among the few ways we have to defeat the virus. If you are eligible for the vaccine, get your shot soon,” Modi tweeted. He received his first vaccine shot on March 1.
India started its vaccination drive in January. So far, more than 90 million health workers and Indians older than 45 have received at least one shot. Only 11 million of them have received both doses as India tries to build immunity to protect its nearly 1.4 billion people.
The new cases reported by the Health Ministry overtook Wednesday’s 115,736 infections with dozens of cities and towns imposing night curfews to try to contain infections.
Fatalities rose by 685 in the past 24 hours, the highest since November, raising the nation's toll to 166,862 dead.
The western state of Maharashtra, the worst hit in the country, accounted for nearly 47% of new infections.
The federal government has refused to impose a second nationwide lockdown, after the first last year had a steep economic impact, but it has asked states to decide on imposing local restrictions to contain the spread of the virus.
India suffers vaccine shortages
Vaccination centres in parts of India turned people away on Thursday and large parts of the country reportedly ran low on doses, just as infections rose at their fastest rate since the pandemic began.
According to the Times of India, 10 states that are collectively home to more than 700 million people have stocks for only three or four more days including Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and West Bengal.
In Maharashtra, which includes megacity Mumbai, the state health minister warned on Wednesday that supplies would run out in three days unless replenished.
"We are having to tell people that since vaccine supplies have not arrived, they should go home," Rajesh Tope told reporters.
Major vaccination centres in Mumbai were running out of doses on Thursday, with the huge Lokmanya Tilak Municipal General Hospital stopping inoculations altogether.
At a government-run vaccination centre in the Mumbai neighbourhood of Dharavi, India's largest slum, long queues formed.
Afrin Sultana Khan, in charge of the facility, warned it would only be able to vaccinate another 440 people — its daily average — before shutting shop. "Obviously we are very worried," the doctor said.
Retiree Rajesh Kumar, 68, awaiting his second dose at one of Mumbai's top private hospitals, said his appointment was cancelled at the last minute. "Any sensible government would have rushed vaccines to Maharashtra by now," he said.
India wants to start administering the vaccine soon, most likely by Wednesday, said one of the sources, both of whom declined to be named ahead of an official announcement expected later in the day.
The government also approved the use of a vaccine developed by AstraZeneca and Oxford University, which will be the lead vaccine in India's immunisation programme until other shots are approved.
India's cases jumped by 28,903 on Wednesday, the highest increase since Dec.13. Deaths increased by 188, the highest in two months, to stand at 159,044.
The number of new infections in a day has more than doubled since early April, with a cumulative total 14.1 million cases. Deaths stood at 1,038, taking the total to 173,123, the data showed.
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