India’s efforts to begin registering its 1.4 billion people for COVID-19 inoculations stumbled Wednesday as the country struggles under the weight of a disastrous second surge of the disease.
The government launched a website for all Indians 18 and older to sign up for a vaccination drive that is set to begin Saturday. However, many people flooded social media with complaints that either the website had crashed or they were unable to make an appointment.
The problems with the website come as the health ministry reported 379,257 new COVID-19 cases on Thursday, including 3,645 fatalities, marking yet another one-day record for fatalities. The new figures have pushed India’s coronavirus casualty numbers well over 18.3 million total confirmed cases and 204,832 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center.
The second wave of the coronavirus has pushed India’s health care system to the brink of collapse, with hospitals at full capacity and an acute shortage of oxygen aggravating an already desperate situation.
Many parks and parking lots have been converted into makeshift crematories that are working day and night to burn dead bodies.
Public health experts have blamed the spread on more contagious variants of the virus, plus the easing of restrictions on large crowds when the outbreak appeared to be under control earlier this year. Despite the worsening crisis, more than 8 million residents in West Bengal state are expected to show up at polling stations Thursday to vote in the eighth and final phase of state elections.
India’s vaccination drive has dragged at a slow pace since it was launched in January, with only 1.7% of the population fully vaccinated. The country has a shortage of COVID-19 vaccines as it struggles with a lack of raw materials needed to manufacture doses.
Assistance from international community
The international community has responded by shipping critical supplies to India, including ventilators, oxygen concentrators, drug treatments and the raw materials necessary to develop vaccines.
The White House says an initial shipment of medical supplies worth $100 million will begin arriving in India on Thursday, including 1,000 oxygen cylinders, 15 million N95 face masks and 1 million rapid diagnostic tests, along with the raw materials that will allow India to manufacture 20 million doses of the AstraZeneca two-dose vaccine.
The U.S. State Department issued a travel advisory Wednesday urging Americans not to travel to India, becoming the latest country to impose a warning or outright prohibition on visiting the country.
Syringes and a vial of AstraZeneca vaccine against COVID-19 sit on a general practitioners’ table during a vaccination campaign in Amsterdam, Netherlands, Wednesday, April 14, 2021. (AP Photo/Peter Dejong)
Meanwhile, the head of Australia’s drug regulatory agency said Thursday there is no evidence the AstraZeneca vaccine was responsible for the deaths of two people shortly after their inoculations.
Two men in North South Wales state, including one in his 70s, died within days after receiving the vaccine.
John Skerritt, the head of the government’s Therapeutic Goods Administration, told reporters the men’s deaths are being investigated, but said “the current evidence does not suggest a likely association” between the deaths and the vaccination.
The AstraZeneca vaccine has had a troubled rollout across the world, with many nations suspending its use after reports first surfaced of a severe side effect that combines blood clots with low platelet counts following inoculation, including a handful of deaths.