The number of deaths linked to coronavirus in India has moved past the 400,000 mark as the country tries to speed up its vaccination drive.
Experts warn that the real number of fatalities might be much higher as many deaths are not officially recorded. India is only the third in the world behind the US and Brazil to record more than 400,000 deaths.
The country has recorded 30 million cases – second only to the US. The number of average daily cases in India has fallen to just over 40,000 in recent days, down from the peaks of 400,000 in May. The drop in numbers has largely been attributed to strict lockdowns by states. But experts have warned of an impending third wave.
Less than 5% of the country’s population has been fully vaccinated since the beginning of the drive in January. The federal government aims to vaccinate all Indians by the end of this year, but the drive has been hobbled by slow pace, shortage of doses and vaccine hesitancy.
The country is currently using two homegrown vaccines: Covishield and Covaxin. Russia’s Sputnik V has been also approved for use and is being used in some quantities.
The government is now racing to shore up its vaccine supplies, hoping to be well-prepared after a deadly second wave overwhelmed the country’s fragile healthcare system.
It is gearing upto use a local version of Novavax vaccine, which will be produced by the Serum Institute of India (SII). The government has also ordered 300 million doses of another vaccine from Indian firm Biological E.
Earlier this week, the country’s health ministry also gave approval to Indian pharma company Cipla to import Moderna vaccine, which has shown nearly 95% efficacy against Covid-19.