Earlier in the day today, I published a detailed thread on the demand-supply scenario of the vaccines against covid, in India.
If you have read that thread, this piece is not for you. If you haven’t, do keep reading.
Up until today (April 30), vaccines against covid were only available for those aged 45 and above.
The number of people aged 45 and above in India is around 35.6 crore. This projection can be accessed from the Youth in India 2017 report. Of this, 12.4 crore individuals have taken only one dose of the vaccine and 2.6 crore have taken both the doses. (This number was as of the time of writing and keeps changing).
This basically means that 20.6 crore Indians (35.6 crore minus 12.4 crore, who have taken one dose, minus 2.6 crore, who have taken both the doses), aged 45 and above, are yet to take even a single dose of the vaccine.
In order to vaccinate them, the number of vaccines required will be 41.2 crore (20.6 crore multiplied by 2 doses each). Over and above this, 12.4 crore individuals who have taken just one dose, need to take a second dose as well.
Hence, the number of vaccines required, for those aged 45 and above stands at 53.6 crore (41.2 crore, who haven’t taken any dose, plus 12.4 crore, who have taken one dose).
From tomorrow (May 1), vaccination is open even for those aged 18 and above as well. As per the Youth in India report, the number of people in the age bracket 20-44, stands at around 55 crore. It doesn’t have a break up for the age bracket 18-44. So, it’s only fair to assume that the number of individuals in the age bracket 18-44, will be around 60 crore. In fact, that is the assumption I worked with in my Twitter thread.
One of the readers pointed out that economists Renuka Sane and Ajay Shah in a piece estimate that the number of individuals in the age group 18-44 stand at 62.2 crore. I will work with this number here. (I am trying to workout a ballpark estimate here and not write a research paper).
The number of vaccines required for those in the 18-44 bracket stands at 124.4 crore (62.2 crore multiplied by two doses). The overall number of vaccines required to vaccinate everyone aged 18 and above, is, 178 crore (124.4 crore plus 53.6 crore).
This is where things get interesting. In May, Serum Institute (Covishield) is expected to produce 7 crore vaccines. Bharat Biotech (Covaxin) is expected to produce 2 crore. That’s 9 crore vaccines, when 178 crore vaccines are required. If we take vaccine wastage into account we are looking at a number higher than 178 crore and closer to 190 crore vaccines.
Serum Institute’s capacity is expected to go up to 10 crore vaccines by June and Bharat Biotech’s capacity is expected to go up to 6 crore by July. By July we will have 16 crore vaccines being produced per month.
Of course, other vaccines like Sputnik and Pfizer will also come in, and thus the supply will increase and go up to more than 16 crore.
The point is that the supply of vaccines will continue to be a problem for the next few months. There are only two companies and there is only so much they can produce.
What does this tell us? It tells us that the authorities assumed that there will be no second wave and hence, had no plans to vaccinate a large section of the population quickly. The government has been caught napping at the wheels.
Also, even with the availability of 20 crore vaccines a month, it will take at least five to six months, for a significant portion of the population to be vaccinated, so that the population can achieve herd immunity.
One reader on Twitter told me that the capacity may also be used to fulfil commercial export commitments of the vaccine suppliers. I have no idea about whether that is the case. If that is the case, vaccination of a significant portion of the population will take even longer.
This easily explains why state governments are running out of stocks. The supply is very low in comparison to the demand. This is a problem that is not going to go away at least for the next two months. This is also explains, why even though vaccination for those over 18 is now allowed, there aren’t vaccines available to vaccinate them.
Of course, there will be a great fight for access to vaccines, not just between state governments, but also between state governments and the private sector. That is what the current vaccine strategy will lead to.
I have already heard stories of corporates throwing money to ensure that their employees are vaccinated and can get back to work quickly. For them, it is the cost of doing business, which can be easily passed on to their consumers. Of course, this evidence is anecdotal, but many corporates, especially those in the services business, have an incentive in doing so. If this plays out at a significant level, it will make vaccines even more inaccessible for the common man.
Basically, it’s a royal screwup, which cannot be corrected quickly. Give it another five to six months and hope for the best.
Meanwhile, don’t step out if you can, and if you do, stay doubled masked!