Key numbers about India’s new vaccination plan
At least 92 countries have administered boosters, and not all of them are rich, western nations. The list includes India’s neighbours Sri Lanka (15.7% of the population given boosters) and China (8%), and economic peers such as Brazil (11.5%).
India will start vaccinating children in the 15-18 age group from January 3, Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced on December 25. A precautionary third dose will also be given from January 10 to health care and front line workers, and people over 60 with co-morbidities, he said. Those who got the second jab 39 weeks (roughly nine months) ago will be eligible for these “precautionary doses”.
How many doses will India require to inoculate the new cohorts? Will there be any shortage? Which countries are giving booster shots to most of their population? We answer these questions in four charts.
How many people will the next phase of vaccinations cover?
India has 137.9 million senior citizens and 74.1 million in the 15-18 age cohort, according to 2021 projections by the National Commission on Population. The number of health and front line workers will vary, depending on who are currently in that group. However, they will not be an insignificant number, given that 28.77 million first doses were administered to them till 26 December, health ministry data shows. This translates into 240.7 million people, or an additional requirement of some 314.8 million doses in 2022 since the children will require two doses. This is likely an overestimate because not all above 60 years suffer from specified co-morbidities.
Demand from children will exceed senior citizens initially
Even though the 15-18 age cohort is smaller than senior citizens, the initial demand from them will likely be higher. Since there will have to be an interval of 39 weeks for the third dose, the cut-off date for full vaccination is April 19 as inoculations for the elderly start on January 10. For those who become eligible on January 31, the cutoff date is May 10, 2021.
Assuming all eligible children receive their first jab in January, India will require an additional 104.1 million doses. It is not an insignificant number seen in comparison with the number of doses the country has administered every month. This is in addition to around 54.5 million people who will be eligible for second doses, if we just take the 12-week gap required for Covishield, or around 90% of the people who received first doses between October 16 and November 15.
Older people have more co-morbidities, but make up a small share
That the elderly are more vulnerable to coronavirus and should be given priority is a sound argument. Diseases such as diabetes, asthma, heart ailments and cancer are less prevalent in younger people, the 2015-16 National Family Health Survey showed. While it was limited to those of reproductive age of up to 49 years, the Longitudinal Ageing Study in India survey conducted in 2017-18 specifically for older age groups suggested even higher prevalence of such diseases in people aged 60 years and above. For instance, 35% of senior citizens reported at least one of three cardiovascular diseases, while only 22% in the 45-60 years cohort had such an ailment.
India is already behind in booster coverage
India is not the first country to announce booster doses for its population. In fact, the trend of booster shots is in keeping with the rich country bias in the progress of regular vaccine programmes in the world, as was shown in an HT analysis on December 9 (https://bit.ly/3Er4x5H). At least 92 countries have administered boosters, according to Our World in Data, and not all of them are rich, western nations. The list includes India’s neighbours Sri Lanka (15.7% of the population given boosters) and China (8%), and economic peers such as Brazil (11.5%).
If boosters are the only significant way of protection against the Omicron variant, surely everyone will first need to be fully vaccinated. There are significant gaps persisting there as well. As much as 47% of the 18-45 age group, 30% of the 45-60 age cohort, and 33% of the 60 plus years are yet to be fully inoculated. These percentages are likely even worse in a large number of districts, an earlier HT analysis had pointed out. In mid-December, the share of fully vaccinated adults was less than 50% in more than a third of India’s districts (https://bit.ly/3JwxaT0).