Many Indians skipping second COVID shot despite record vaccine stocks

NEW DELHI, Oct 19 (Reuters) - A “sizeable number” of people in India have not taken their second COVID-19 vaccine dose by the due date despite adequate supplies, the health ministry said on Tuesday, as new infections fell to their lowest since early March.

Daily shots have averaged 5 million this month, a fifth of September’s peak, though states are sitting on record stocks of more than 100 million as domestic output of the AstraZeneca vaccine soars.

Despite the low number of infections, ministry officials have been urging people to get vaccinated fast, especially as the ongoing festival season means family gatherings and mass shopping, raising the risk of infection.

Nearly three-quarters of India's 944 million adults have received at least one dose but only 31% have been fully inoculated, mainly due to a longer-than-usual gap between AstraZeneca doses here but also because people are skipping their second shots.

“A sizeable number of beneficiaries who are eligible have not received their second dose,” the health ministry said in a statement.

“It was pointed out that many states have adequate doses to vaccinate those people who are awaiting their second dose. Government of India is in a position to provide additional vaccine doses ... so that they can complete the aforesaid task.”

More than 242 million Indian adults have yet to get a shot, while vaccination has not started for those under 18.

India reported 13,058 new infections on Tuesday, the lowest since early March and taking the total to 34.1 million. Deaths rose by 164 to 452,454. (Reporting by Krishna N. Das; Editing by Nick Macfie)