“1,000,000,000 doses administered in India,” UAE-based Gulf News screamed in bold letters on the front page the morning after India achieved the goal of administration of a billion Covid vaccines in the country of ‘nearly 1.4 billion.’

About half of the South Asian nation people have received at least one dose while around 20 per cent are fully immunised according to ‘ Our World in Data’ , the UAE’s leading daily said in its analysis on Friday morning, a closed holiday for the region with an expat Indian population in the tens of millions.

Languishes in phases

“Many of those shots have come in just the past couple of months, after the rollout languished in the first half of the year amid vaccine shortages and problems with the system for rolling them out.” Khaleej Times, another leading daily from the region, highlighted India achieving a ‘milestone of hope’ and quoted VK Paul, head of its Covid-19 task force as saying that ramping up the second dose is “an important priority.” “We would like to see this number go up. Complete coverage is absolutely critical.”

Also read: US lawmakers say India’s success will help world defeat Covid as it achieves 1 billion jabs milestone

In recent months, life in India has swung back to normal. Markets are buzz with activity, foreign tourists are allowed again after a 19-month hiatus and the country is gearing up to celebrate Diwali, the Hindu festival of lights.

Fears of a mutant

If the virus becomes different or mutates, it changes the dynamics. “This could change everything,” the Khaleej Times quoted Paul as saying. India has borne the brunt of the Delta variant already, but things could escalate quickly if a new variant emerges – either from within the country or outside.

Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennet tweeted his appreciation to Prime Minister Narendra Modi on “leading India’s successful Covid-19 vaccination campaign that has now administered more than one billion vaccines to Indian people. These life-saving vaccines are helping us all defeat the global pandemic.”

Threat from further East

Meanwhile, a clinician from a large Indian-owned pharmacy and medical services group with a major presence in the UAE told this correspondent on condition of anonymity that even as the Emirates seem to have contained the spread of Covid-19 virus, he is worried that his home country may need to be wary about fresh outbreaks in China, Australia and New Zealand.

Also read: The daily dose: October 22, 2021

“Persisting spread in states such as Kerala also does not inspire confidence,” he said. Reports from his home country also speaks about the presence of a huge number of unvaccinated people that offers a fertile ground for sustained transmission, if not the fearful prospect of a mutant variant emerging fresh.

Needs to pick up pace

The BBC said that India achieved achieved the milestone in 278 days – the first vaccine was given on January 16. The country aims to fully vaccinate about a billion people by the end of 2021 but the BBC quoted experts saying that the “drive needs to pick up pace further to meet the target”.

The billion-doses milestone makes India the second country to reach the one billion mark – China had crossed it in June. India, on an average, is believed to have administered 3.6 million doses per day. “However, the number of doses actually administered each day since January was not consistent, and varied widely,” the BBC said.