In hopes of taming a monstrous spike in coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) infections, India opened vaccinations to all adults on Saturday, launching a huge inoculation effort that was sure to tax the limits of the federal government, the country’s vaccine factories and the patience of its 1.4 billion people.
The world’s largest maker of vaccines was still short of critical supplies — the result of lagging manufacturing and raw material shortages that delayed the rollout in several states. And even in places where the shots were in stock, the country’s wide economic disparities made access to the vaccine inconsistent.
The country’s ambitious effort was also partly overshadowed Saturday by a fire in a Covid-19 ward in western India that killed 18 patients, and the reported deaths of eight patients at a New Delhi hospital after it ran short of oxygen supplies. That report, from the Press Trust of India news agency, could not be immediately confirmed with hospital authorities.
Also Saturday, the country received its first batch of Sputnik V vaccines, which it is importing from Russia. Moscow has signed a deal with an Indian pharmaceutical company to distribute 125 million doses.Only a fraction of India’s population will be able to afford the prices charged by private hospitals for vaccines, experts said, meaning that states will be saddled with immunizing the 600 million Indian adults younger than 45, while the federal government gives shots to 300 million health care and front-line workers and people older than 45. SOVEREIGNPH