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India’s ambitious vaccine targets alone will not help immunize its massive population

  • India set an ambitious target to manufacture more than 2 billion Covid-19 vaccines by December — enough to inoculate most of its massive 1.3 billion population.
  • But authorities have to convince people to get their shots, particularly those in small towns and villages in the countryside where there's a degree of vaccine hesitancy.
  • India needs an efficient vaccine delivery plan will help those small towns and rural areas access vaccination centers more easily, according to K. Srinath Reddy, president of the Public Health Foundation of India.

A health worker administers a dose of Covid-19 vaccine to a beneficiary, at a vaccination center, on June 10, 2021 in New Delhi, India.Sanchit Khanna | Hindustan Times | Getty Images

India set an ambitious target to manufacture more than 2 billion doses of Covid-19 vaccines by December — enough to inoculate most of its massive 1.3 billion population.

But authorities have to convince people to get their shots, particularly those in small towns and villages in the countryside where there's a degree of vaccine hesitancy. Vaccine delivery and access are also challenges in rural areas due to the lack of infrastructure.

There's a considerable amount of eagerness to get inoculated in India's urban areas where people saw the disastrous health consequences of the outbreak and want to avoid another lockdown, according to K. Srinath Reddy, president of the Public Health Foundation of India.

"Challenge will be mostly in small towns and rural areas, both in terms of having the health system capacity to deliver and also in overcoming vaccine hesitancy and creating a demand," he told CNBC by phone.

India's packed urban centers, including metropolitan cities like Mumbai, Delhi and Pune bore the brunt of a disastrous second wave that began in February and peaked in early May.

Vaccinating India's rural population

India needs an efficient vaccine delivery plan will help those small towns and rural areas access vaccination centers more easily, according to Reddy.

That includes setting up enough vaccination centers so that people won't have to travel long distances to get their shots. India also needs to consider mobile vaccination units to access hard-to-reach places, including villages.

"So those are innovations that will have to be probably thought of, because everybody is not going to be reporting to a vaccination center like in the cities, because it might mean a lot of inconvenience and distance to travel," Reddy said.

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