India’s mass inoculation programme closed in on a yet another major milestone on Tuesday, with almost one in every four eligible Indians (24.8%) having been fully vaccinated by the end of the day. Another 43.5% have been partly vaccinated.

The milestone in coverage comes at a time when the number of active cases of Covid-19 in the country has dropped below the 300,000 mark for the first time in at least six months, data shows.

As of Tuesday evening, India has administered 876.2 million doses of Covid-19 vaccine to 642.5 million people – making the country second only to China (1.1 billion people inoculated) in terms of the number of people who have received at least one dose of Covid-19 vaccine.

Of these, 233.6 million people have received both doses of the vaccine, while another 408.9 million people have been partially vaccinated. When these numbers are seen alongside the country’s projected adult population of 940 million (according to the Census of India’s National Commission on Population), this means that 68.3% of people above the age of 18 years have received vaccine shots – 24.8% are fully vaccinated and another 43.5% partially vaccinated.

The proportion of people fully vaccinated is set to cross the 25% mark as early as Wednesday.

The headline number on population coverage, however, glosses over the wide variations across different states. Himachal Pradesh leads the country in not only overall coverage, but also the proportion of people fully vaccinated – with the state’s entire adult population vaccinated with at least one dose and nearly half (48.3%) fully vaccinated. Kerala is on the second spot with 92.1% adults having received at least one dose and 40.3% having received both jabs. Uttarakhand (91.1% at least one dose and 38.2% both doses), Gujarat (85.3% and 38.1%, respectively) and Delhi (79.1% and 37.4%) make up the top five states in the country.

At the other end of the spectrum, seven large states are currently behind the national average. Uttar Pradesh with the lowest coverage by both doses (13.6%), Bihar (14.5% adults fully vaccinated) and Jharkhand (16.2% fully vaccinated). In terms of coverage of adults with at least one dose, Jharkhand comes at the bottom with 54.3%, followed by West Bengal (55.5%) and Uttar Pradesh (57.7%).

With over 225 million doses already administered across the country in the month of September, India has also bettered the monthly jab record set in August. A total of 183.5 million doses were administered across the country in August, translating to a daily average of 5.92 million doses in the month. Since the figures for September are only for 28 days, it translates to an average of nearly 8 million shots a day throughout the month, according to HT’s Covid-19 dashboard.

For context to how much the numbers have increased in September (as well as in August to a good degree), the average daily dose administration through July was 4.35 million, while it was 3.98 million in June and only 1.97 million in May.

The jump in numbers through September was achieved through a consistent push in daily vaccination numbers through the month. On September 17, to mark Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s birthday, several states increased daily numbers as the country administered a record 25 million doses through the day. Furthermore, daily jabs crossed the 10 million mark on three more days in the month – September 9, September 20 and September 27, according to government data.

Meanwhile, as the daily infections continued to drop across the country, the number of active cases in India on Tuesday dropped to 289,077. This is the lowest number of active cases seen in the country in more than half a year – the last time active cases were this low was on March 19, when the second wave was just kicking off. The number of active cases right now is a drop of more than 92% from what was during the peak of the country’s brutal second wave of infections when it touched 3.75 million on May 9. Active cases – those Covid-19 patients still carrying the virus, and thus under treatment – is a crucial metric representing the country’s battle against the disease because it directly reflects the pressure on the health care system in a region. While the pace of the drive has seen progress, data shows that there is still a long way to go if India wants to achieve its stated target of vaccinating its entire adult population of 940 million by the end of 2021. To achieve this, India needs to administer another billion doses in the remaining 94 days of the year, translating to a daily rate of 10.7 million doses a day. While India has done this on several occasions, it has not been able to do so consistently. At its best, the seven-day average of daily doses has touched 9.8 million (for the week ended September 23), while this number has dropped to an average of 7.2 million in the past week. To be sure, it is unlikely that entire adult population will want to be jabbed.

Experts stressed that the need for communication drives to tackle vaccine hesitancy is still needed despite improved coverage proportions. “Various studies had shown that around 40% of India’s population was resistant to vaccines in varying degrees, of which around 25% were on the fence, while 15% were properly against receiving jabs. Surveys have shown that after the second wave, a large proportion of the fence-sitters appear to have shifted to acceptance.

The government must still focus its communication outreach, because hesitancy can still remain a major challenge to achieve full coverage in a country the size of India,” said epidemiologist and public health expert Dr Chandrakant Lahariya. “With 68% of India’s population having received at least one dose, and a quarter both doses, with the pace of vaccination maintaining a steady rate, we can say that we have reached a phase where India’s programme has achieved an equilibrium between supply and demand,” he said.

“Sero-surveys conducted in India in June-July revealed that over 67% of the country’s population carried antibodies against the disease. And the country saw another two-three month period of high transmission of the disease following the survey period… These figures, along with India’s vaccination coverage, mean that on a broad level, it could be assumed that 85% of the country may have some protection against severe disease for the time being,” he added.

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