India has become the first country to record more than 400,000 cases of coronavirus in a single day, and a nationwide vaccine campaign has been launched amid a supply crisis.
About 3,523 deaths were officially recorded in the past 24 hours, but the true number is believed to be much higher as many deaths are not reported.
All adults in India are now eligible to be vaccinated.
But several states say they do not have the necessary doses to complete the vaccination campaign.
India previously focused on vaccinating frontline workers over the age of 45. The country faces an acute shortage of oxygen and hospital beds, as the second devastating wave of the Covid-19 epidemic ravages the country’s health system.
How is the vaccine rollout going in India?
About 150 million doses of vaccine have been administered, equivalent to 11.5% of Indias population of 1.3 billion.
Despite being the largest producer of vaccines in the world, the country suffers from an internal shortage and has imposed a temporary suspension on all exports of AstraZeneca to meet domestic demand.
More than 13 million people between the ages of 18 and 45 have registered to receive the vaccine, but affected states including Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra have said they will not start vaccinating this age group on May 1 as planned due to supply problems.
The head of the regional government in Delhi, Arvind Kejriwal, asked people not to queue to get the vaccine because the Indian capital has yet to receive the doses.
“Once the vaccines arrive, we will tell you, then you can come to get the vaccine. We urge you not to gather at the vaccination centers in the next few days,” Kejriwal said. It was later announced that the lockdown in Delhi would be extended for another week.
Experts believe that India should ramp up vaccination in areas where infection is most common, and in five states where elections are taking place.
Biramar Mukherjee, a biostatistician at the University of Michigan, told the BBC that the country needed to distribute 10 million doses of vaccines per day “instead of just three million”.
Fires and lack of oxygen cause new tragedies
Since the start of the epidemic, India has confirmed more than 19 million cases, second only to the United States. It also reported more than 200,000 deaths.
The United States said it would restrict travel from India, starting from Tuesday, in an effort to stop the spread of Covid 19. Australia has gone a step further, temporarily preventing its citizens from returning to their country.
Hospitals in the country suffer from a lack of oxygen and beds.
And in a Delhi hospital, a number of people died on Saturday when critically ill patients were left without oxygen for about 80 minutes before resupply carriers arrived, according to local media reports.
Vijay Gupta, 62, was struggling to breathe outside a hospital in the southeast of the Indian capital because all his beds were full.
A friend of his told Reuters news agency, “We have been scouring the roads since 06:00 in search of a bed.” “Where can we go?”
In Srinagar, the main city in Indian-administered Kashmir, a man said he was waiting for vaccinations at a health center, but was asked to come home and come again.
He said that two of his relatives were with him suffering from health problems.
“I am very worried about them but we are still waiting,” he told the BBC.
Also on Saturday, a fire in the Covid-19 ward of a hospital in the western city of Bharuch killed 18 people, the latest in a series of deadly hospital fires across the country this week.
The crematoria is facing severe difficulties in dealing with the number of deaths caused by Covid 19, and some have had to build temporary funeral cremations.
What vaccines does India use?
India uses two vaccines, Oxford AstraZeneca (locally known as Coffeeshield) and another made by Indias Bharat Biotech Company (Kovaxin).
The Sputnik vaccine has also been approved for use in Russian-made, and the first 150,000 doses arrived on Saturday.
In India, vaccination is voluntary. State-run clinics and hospitals offer free doses, but people can also pay 250 rupees ($ 3.4) for a dose at private medical facilities.
The government is spending about $ 5 billion to provide free doses in state-run clinics, public health centers and hospitals.
Did “adverse events” occur after the vaccination?
People can experience side effects from the vaccines.
India has a 34-year-old surveillance program to monitor “negative effects” after vaccinations. Experts say failure to report such incidents transparently could fuel vaccine fear.
India has so far reported 18,904 post-vaccination “adverse effects”. The government said most of these incidents were “minor”, such as dizziness, high temperature and pain, and all patients recovered.
The surveillance program had examined 617 of those cases, including 180 deaths after vaccination, as of March, according to reports.
He concluded that “the deaths occurred in cases where a person had underlying diseases, including heart problems, high blood pressure and diabetes.”