24×7 vaccination drives needed to curb future COVID-19 waves, boost economy: Finance Ministry

The Department of Economic Affairs noted in its monthly economic report for May 2021 that vaccination of 70 crore people with at least the first dose till September 2021 is paramount for boosting consumers and investors’ confidence

An accelerated vaccination drive is imperative to avoid or lower the ferocity of subsequent waves of the spread of COVID-19 and boost economic growth, the Department of Economic Affairs noted in its monthly economic report for May 2021.

Calling for a doubling of shifts or even 24×7 vaccination drives for a couple of months, particularly in August and September when supply is expected to increase significantly, the finance ministry said this can enable the ambitious, but possible, target of 1 crore shots a day.

Terming the vaccination of 70 crore people with at least the first dose till September 2021 as ‘paramount’ for boosting consumers and investors’ confidence and reinvigorating economic growth, the Finance Ministry pitched for it to be taken up on a ‘mission’ mode.

“Around 93 lakh vaccinations are required per day to achieve the herd immunity (by September-end). The peak daily vaccination rate attained till date is 42.65 lakh. This peak was achieved using one shift of 8-9 hours of vaccination,” it pointed out.

While attempts are being made to fast-track procurement of vaccines from the international market and 216 crore doses are expected to be made in India between August and December, the ministry suggested aligning supplies with the September 2021 target and a system whereby “people already having antibodies (are) vaccinated later while people who have not been exposed (are) given priority”.

“The operational challenges can be met by careful planning and upscaling of transportation, storage and vaccine administration capacity. Use of technology to ease the administration of the vaccine, increased shifts at vaccination centres and integration of mass vaccination sites e.g., shopping areas, drive-ins, with schools and primary health care centres will enhance faster coverage under vaccination,” it noted.

The report noted that India is one of the select few economies that has witnessed positive year-on-year growth in the last two consecutive quarters, and provisional GDP estimates for the fourth quarter of 2020-21 confirm a V-shaped recovery in economic prospects in the second half of the year after an unprecedented COVID-19 induced contraction.

With the peaking of the second wave in first half of May 2021 and the localised restrictions adopted to combat its spread, its economic impact is expected to be restricted to the first quarter of 2021-22, the finance ministry noted.

The second wave’s spread to rural India has been rapid, but the share of rural districts in new cases was still lower than the levels seen at the first wave’s peak, the finance ministry said. This proportion stood at 57.9% in May, compared to 63.6% in September 2020.

However, the number of rural districts bearing 20% of new cases increased sharply from 12 in March to 43 in April and 47 in May, ‘which in turn is 3.4 times greater than their share during the peak of the first wave’.

While a healthy monsoon bodes well for agriculture and softer lockdowns by States are expected to translate into a ‘softer economic shock’ for sectors like manufacturing and construction, the ministry stressed that “quickening the pace and coverage of vaccination is critical to help India heal and regain the momentum of economic recovery.”

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