India breaks own COVID vaccination record as 'birthday gift' to Modi

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NEW DELHI, Sept 17 (Reuters) - India broke its daily COVID-19 vaccination record on Friday by administering over 20 million doses of vaccines in a single day as states organised a special inoculation drive on the occasion of prime minister Narendra Modi's birthday.

The health minister called it a gift for Modi, who turned 71 as vaccination breached the previous peak of 14.1 million on Aug. 31.

Immunisations have surged in the past few weeks, thanks mainly to a rapid rise in production of the AstraZeneca shot by the Serum Institute of India. The company would supply 200 million doses to the country's immunisation programme this month, compared with around 150 million in the previous month, said a ministry source, who declined to be named.

In addition, Bharat Biotech will supply 35 million doses of Covaxin this month, while Cadila Healthcare Ltd will join the inoculation drive next month by selling 10 million doses of its COVID-19 DNA vaccine.

"I believe that today we will all make a new record of vaccination and give it as a gift to the prime minister," Health Minister Mansukh Mandaviya said on Twitter, wishing Modi happy birthday.

India has administered more than 783 million doses, the most after China - the only country with more people than India's 1.35 billion.

India has given at least one dose to more than 62% of its 944 million adults and two doses to about 21%. The government wants to administer at least one dose to a large majority of the adult population by the first half of next month.

The country has reported more than 33.38 million coronavirus cases and 444,248 deaths. (Reporting by Krishna N. Das; additional reporting by Nupur Anand; Editing by Dan Grebler)

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