Indian states are looking to expand vaccinations as the second surge overtakes the first wave

© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: A health care worker takes a swab sample from a man during a rapid antigen test campaign for coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Mumbai

NEW DELHI (Reuters) – Many Indian leaders have asked Prime Minister Narendra Modi to open vaccinations to most hundreds of millions of adults in the country after a second surge in infections that dwarfed the first wave.

India passed the grim milestone of 100,000 daily infections for the first time on Monday, and cases are likely to stay high again when new numbers are released later on Tuesday.

The country, the world’s largest vaccine maker, expanded its vaccination program to all over 45s this month. So far, it has only vaccinated about 1 in 25 people, compared with almost 1 in 2 in the United Kingdom and 1 in 3 in the United States.

“When larger numbers of young and working people are vaccinated, the intensity of cases is much lower than the treatment they need today,” wrote Uddhav Thackeray, prime minister of India’s worst-hit state, Maharashtra, late in a letter to Modi on Monday .

The chief minister of Delhi, Arvind Kejriwal, and many other states have also asked for faster and more comprehensive vaccinations, with vaccine supplies becoming scarce even for the prioritized groups.

The federal government has announced that it will extend the vaccination campaign to more people in the “near future” and increase the vaccine supply.

With 12.6 million cases, India is the hardest hit country after the US and Brazil. The deaths have passed the 165,000 mark.

Daily infections in the country have skyrocketed since hitting multi-month lows in early February, when authorities eased most restrictions and people largely stopped wearing masks and socially distanced themselves.

India recorded the most infections in the world over the past week. Other infectious variants of the virus may have played a role in the second surge, some epidemiologists say.

Global vaccination tracker:

(Interactive graphic tracking of the worldwide spread of coronavirus:

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