June 20, 2021

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Indians spend days in line for COVID vaccines and oxygen as coronavirus infections set another record – CBS News

2 min read

Delhi — India continues to break records for new COVID-19 infections and deaths. On Friday the Health Ministry said 414,188 new cases were confirmed and 3,915 more deaths added to the country’s toll, which brought the total number of fatalities blamed on the coronavirus in India to more than 234,000.

The country has been scrambling to ramp-up supplies of oxygen and vaccines to alleviate dire shortages that have forced Indians to line up for hours, even days.

CBS News correspondent Chris Livesay met 18-year-old Rohin Sharma, who’d already waited for five hours under the hot New Delhi sun. Filling up his oxygen canisters was a matter of life and death. 

“My mother is in critical,” he told CBS News.

But it could be worse. CBS News also met Sonu Yadav, who’d been waiting in the line for two days.

As a last resort, others come to a Sikh temple in the Indian capital where the anguished, many too weak to leave their cars, receive a trickle of oxygen.

Corona Virus Outbreak In India
A man having difficulty breathing is attended to by a volunteer as he receives free oxygen outside a Gurudwara (Sikh temple) in Ghaziabad, on the outskirts of New Delhi, India, May 6, 2021. Mayank Makhija/NurPhoto/Getty

As loved-ones fan the sick in the stifling heat, they’re at least given a moment of reprieve. For some, it may be their last.

In COVID-stricken India, even the healthy must show extraordinary patience. In countless lines across India’s cities, people are fighting for their survival, waiting for their shot of a vaccine.

At one facility in the capital, CBS News met desperate people whose patience was running out, along with the shots available for the day.

India has dire oxygen shortage amid COVID cri… 01:57

Despite being one of the biggest vaccine producers in the world, India has only inoculated about 3% of its population, according to epidemiologist Dr. Ramanan Laxminarayan.

“As a proportion of India’s population, it is miniscule,” Laxminarayan told CBS News. “We need to increase vaccine supply by five-times where it is right now. That’s a tall order… But unless we start working on that right now, it won’t happen.”

And it’s not just Indian lives at stake.

“As long as there is a possibility of new variants that can get past the vaccine, we are all at risk,” he said.

The government said on Friday that it had administered nearly 2 million doses over the past 24 hours. But epidemiologists say it will take a lot more than that to reach the country’s immense population of almost 1.4 billion people.

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