Here is why India’s vaccination in May is less despite 8 crore doses being produced

It has been widely reported in media that the COVID vaccine production target of the month of May 2021 is 8 crore doses, which includes 6 crore doses of Covishield by Serum Institute of India and 2 crore doses of Covaxin by Bharat Biotech. However if we look at the daily vaccination rate, it falls short of the production by 35%. Till May 22, only 4.1 crore doses have been administered. With 8 crore doses/month, we could vaccinate at the rate of 25 lakh doses/day. However, the average vaccination rate has been less than 20 lakh/day for last 1 week.

Seven Day Moving Average of Daily Vaccination in India.

Naturally, the question arises where are the vaccines going if people are not getting vaccinated. Even if we take into account the wastage of 3%, still it is far short of the production figures. Also, there has been no export of vaccines in the month of May 2021. We did some research, talked to experts in order to find out the cause.

People getting vaccinated in India

First of all, we need to understand that vaccines are not produced continuously, unlike other goods. It is produced in batches, which are fed to the pipeline months ago. So the output is irregular. As per reports, more vaccines are likely to be output in 3rd and 4th week of May, compared to first two weeks.

Before May, we had a stockpile of vaccines in the beginning of the month to begin with. This was largely due to low vaccination in the months of January-March. This buffer stockpile prevented the vaccination rate from getting impacted by fluctuations in the production cycle. However, the sudden outburst of COVID increased the vaccination rate in April by multifold. Since we had Zero buffer stock at the beginning of May, the daily vaccination rates have been low.

The distribution and consumption of vaccines varies by state. The distribution of vaccines is determined by its population, number of active cases, test positivity ratio, Wastage Ratio among other things. The inoculation rate is determined by efficiency of state government machinery, Vaccine Hesitation of People, Local Pandemic Situation and the Percentage of Urban Population, among other factors. Consequently, some states have developed large stock of vaccines but have a low inoculation rates. We look at the vaccine availability data of various states as on May 18, which suggests that Tamil Nadu has a stock for 20 days of vaccination while Bihar has only 3 days of stock. The average vaccination rate of TN is 65 doses/day while that of Bihar is 1 lakh doses/day.

There is also a significant gap between the day a vaccine vial is shipped out of the production unit and the day it is utilized for inoculation. It includes transport duration as well as latency in distribution. As per an estimate, a vial shipped out on May 31 shall be utilized not before June 10. Therefore, all doses produced in May, won’t be available for consumption in May.

Above all, there are 2 categories of vaccines, one meant for 45+ and the other meant for 18-44 Age group. While there is heavy rush in the 18-44 age group, the vaccination percentage in the 45+ age group has been low. Due to this, despite having shortage, not all vaccines can be utilized by states.

The good news is that the vaccine production is going to increase manifold in the coming months. As per sources, the following is the estimated vaccine production in May-December this year

MonthDoses (in crores)