India is improving vaccine supplies and will provide free shots to citizens over 18 years, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said Monday, detailing changes to the country’s flagging inoculation campaign against Covid-19.
In an address to the nation, Modi said the federal government was taking back control of vaccinations from the regional governments.
“In the decision taken today, from June 21 the federal government will provide free vaccines to to all adults over the age of 18,” he said.
Under the previous policy, the federal government gave free vaccines to the elderly and frontline workers but tasked state governments and private hospitals to administer vaccines for a fee to people in the 18-44 age group.
Only 3.5 per cent of India’s population has been fully vaccinated so far and the vaccine policy has come under attack by regional governments, opposition parties and the Supreme Court.
Besides acute shortages of the vaccines, states complained about having to buy doses at higher prices.
Many opposition leaders had also demanded that the federal government buy the doses and provide them to states free of cost.
Modi also extended a government scheme to provide free foodgrains to 800 million poor Indians till November. “The government is with the poor during this pandemic … Nobody should sleep hungry,” he said.
Hit hard by second wave of the pandemic in April-May, India on Monday recorded 106,000 cases, the lowest daily surge in cases in two months.
Several regions including national capital New Delhi and financial hub of Mumbai have cautiously begun easing lockdown measures from Monday following the decline in infections.