Why India’s ambitious Covid-19 vaccination drive is faltering

India’s campaign to vaccinate its 1.3 billion people against Covid-19 has hit a number of obstacles as a new surge of infections threatens to track efforts to control the disease. FRANCE 24’s journalists visited a hospital in New Delhi to find out why.

More than 40 million people have so far received at least one dose of the vaccine, which would be a large number for most countries but is worryingly small for the world’s second most populous nation. At this rate, it would take India a decade to vaccinate 70 percent of the population.

In an effort to speed up the campaign, the government has said it will extend vaccinations to all citizens over the age of 45 – down from 60 today – starting on April 1, regardless of comorbidities.

At Jamia Hamdard Hospital in the capital New Delhi, doctors say the problem is not a lack of doses, but of candidates for vaccination. The hospital can vaccinate up to 200 people per day, but recently an average of only 50 people have turned up daily.

They include 70-year-old Madan Lal, who says he could not register online for a meeting. Instead, he decided to “visit this hospital directly to register myself”.

Dr Aqsa Shaikh, head of the hospital’s vaccination program, says India’s decades-long record of vaccination against diseases such as polio should have given the country a head start. But Covid-19 turns out to be a completely different challenge.

“India has a long history of vaccinating children, adolescents and pregnant women,” she said. ” But when it comes to Covid vaccination, which is for adults and for a huge population of [800 million] people, then it’s a completely different ball game. ”

Concerned about a dip in the number of vaccinations, a team of doctors from the hospital has decided to visit local communities. Their goal is to inform the public about the benefits of vaccination and how to do it.

“Our main goal is to give them knowledge,” says Dr. Vishal, a member of the team. “We make them aware of the nearest vaccination center they can visit. And if they have any vaccine-related doubts, we will help remove those doubts. “

Click on the player above to see the report by Adil Bhat, Suhel Khan, Thomas Denis and Mandakini Gahlot.