Vaccinating 700 mn adults by September key to revive economy: Finance Ministry

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A health worker administering the second does of Covaxin, a Covid-19 vaccine to a beneficiary in the 18-45 age group at a vaccination site in a school, in Kingsway Camp, New Delhi. (HT)

Vaccinating 700 million adults with at least the first dose by September on a mission mode will be crucial to achieve herd immunity that could boost consumer and producer confidence, thus reinvigorating the engines of economic growth, the finance ministry said on Wednesday.

“Herd immunity is accomplished when 80% of the population is immune or less susceptible to infection. The key to regain the momentum of economic recovery is attainment of herd immunity at the earliest possible. As per India’s demographic distribution, 865 million people or 63.1% of the population is above 18 years of age. Assuming herd immunity at 80%, the target population to be vaccinated is 700 million,” the latest Monthly Economic Review said.

As on date, 192 million people have got the first dose while 47 million have been fully vaccinated. If 700 million people must be vaccinated by September 2021, finance ministry said around 1.13 billion doses will be needed.

With around 120 days left to 31 September 2021, around 9.3 million vaccinations are required per day to achieve the herd immunity. “The peak daily vaccination rate attained till date is 4.26 million. This peak was achieved using one shift of 8-9 hours of vaccination. So, doubling the shifts and possibly vaccinating 24×7 for a couple of months – particularly in August and September when supply is expected to increase significantly – can enable the ambitious, but possible, throughput of 10 million shots a day,” the finance ministry said.

Vaccine manufacturers have been ramping up capacity and over 2.16 billion of doses are estimated to be manufactured in India during August-December 2021. “Attempts are being made to fast-track procurement efforts of vaccines from the international market. The supply can be aligned with the target of September 2021 with people already having antibodies vaccinated later while people who have not been exposed given priority,” the report added.

The Finance ministry said the onset of the second wave of pandemic has posed a downside risk to this momentum in India’s economic recovery but expected that with the peaking of the second wave in first half of May and the localised restrictions adopted to combat its spread, its economic impact is expected to be restricted to the first quarter of FY22.

“As we cautiously recuperate from the second wave, rapidly improving vaccination delivery and frontloading the fiscal measures planned in the Union Budget hold key to invigorating the investment cycle in the coming quarters,” it added.

Though many states have started easing the lockdowns imposed to break the chain of infection with waning of the second wave of the pandemic, the massive job loss and depressed consumer sentiment have forced most professional forecasters to revise their growth projections to below 10% for FY22.

The World Bank on Tuesday slashed its FY22 growth forecast for India to 8.3% from 10.1% estimated in April holding that recovery in Asia’s third largest economy is being hampered by the largest outbreak of coronavirus cases that any country has seen since the beginning of the pandemic.

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