The Ministry of Finance has proposed carrying out round-the-clock Covid-19 vaccination to achieve herd immunity against the infection so that the country can regain its economic growth momentum.

In the monthly report published by the Department of Economic Affairs, the ministry said rapid vaccination was key to reviving investment and consumption cycles in the coming fiscal quarters.

Considering that herd immunity can be achieved when 80% of the population is immune or less susceptible to the infection, the report said that India needs to vaccinate 70 crore residents. “As on date, 19.2 crore people have got the first dose while 4.7 crore have been fully vaccinated,” it said. “If 70 crore people must be vaccinated by September 2021, it is estimated that around 113 crore doses are needed (19 crore for the second dose + 47 crore for two doses).”

The report said that the peak in daily vaccination achieved has been at 42.65 lakh when the immunisation programme was done in one shift of 8-9 hours. “So, doubling the shifts and possibly vaccinating 24x7 for a couple of months – particularly in August and September when supply is expected to increase significantly – can enable the ambitious, but possible, throughout of 1 crore shots a day.”

It said that over 216 crore of vaccine doses were expected between August and December and that the Union government was making efforts to grant fast-track approvals to vaccines from foreign manufactures. In view of this, the report said the supply of vaccine can be aligned with the target of September (to vaccinate 70 crore citizens) so that residents who have antibodies can be inoculated later and those exposed are given priority.

“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,” the ministry suggested.

It said that expanding the vaccine coverage to achieve herd immunity will “boost consumer and producer confidence and reinvigorate the engines of economic growth”.

The report said that the second Covid-19 wave and subsequent statewide restrictions have posed a “probable downside risk” to the momentum of India’s economic recovery. “With state-level lockdown restrictions being more adaptive to learnings from the first wave, manufacturing and construction activities are expected to experience a softer economic shock in the current quarter,” it said. “However, the speed and scale of the second wave has created some downside risk as economy was still recovering from last year’s supply and demand shock.”

However, the report added that India’s vaccination drive, “meticulous observation” of Covid-appropriate behaviour and “proactive application of India’s successful first-wave pandemic management policies” raised hopes that the impact of the second wave on the economy may not be harsh.

India’s Gross Domestic Product for the fourth quarter (January to March) had grown by 1.6% but the growth rate for the entire financial year of 2020-’21 contracted by 7.3%, government data released on May 31 showed.

Economists had expressed concerns about this quarter due to a devastating second wave of the coronavirus pandemic. They also said slow recovery in key sectors like manufacturing, financial services, tourism, transport and hospitality will hurt the country’s growth.

Meanwhile, the World Bank on Tuesday slashed its growth forecast for India for 2021-’22 financial year to 8.3% from 10.1% estimated in April. The agency attributed it to the devastating second wave of the coronavirus pandemic that slowed down the economic revival in early 2021.

So far, India has administered 23,84,96,108 Covid-19 vaccine doses with 4,57,75,519 getting both the shots, government data showed. On Thursday, India reported 94,052 new Covid-19 cases, pushing the infection tally in the country to 3,59,676 since the pandemic broke out in January 2020. The country also reported its highest single-day toll – 6,148 – after Bihar revised its fatality count upwards of almost 4,000 deaths.

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