The government on Monday announced a ‘liberalised and accelerated’ Covid-19 vaccination programme beginning May 1, where all above 18 years of age will be eligible to be vaccinated. Also, vaccine manufacturers have been empowered to release up to 50% of supplies directly to state governments and in the open market at pre-declared prices, a move that would boost availability of the prophylactics to the people.
The move comes amid a rapid surge of the Covid-19 cases, which has stretched the capacity of many states and cities, including the national capital, in dealing with the crisis.
Several experts and political leaders had urged the government to ramp up the vaccination drive.
The decision to expand the vaccination process was taken at a meeting chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
“The government has been working hard from over a year to ensure that maximum numbers of Indians are able to get the vaccine in the shortest possible of time,” according to a statement issued after the meeting, which reviewed the vaccine pricing and procurement strategies being adopted along with eligibility and administrative matters.
While the new “Phase 3 strategy of Covid-19 vaccination” will be rolled out from May 1, giving flexibility to all stakeholders to customise to local needs, the Centre’s current vaccination drive would continue as planned earlier, providing free vaccination for essential and priority populations as defined earlier (healthcare workers, frontline workers) and vaccination for people above 45 years of age. The Centre will have at its disposal 50% of the vaccines being supplied by the manufacturers.
The second dose of all the Centre’s priority groups would be given priority and when it is due. A specific and focused strategy would be communicated to all stakeholders regarding this, the government said.
India had begun the vaccination drive in January, giving first priority to health and front-line workers, and later the drive was extended to those above 60 years of age.
India has administered nearly 12.4 crore Covid vaccines so far. AstraZeneca-Oxfod vaccine Covishield, manufactured by Serum Institute, and indigenous vaccine Covaxin, developed by Bharat Biotech, are the two vaccines being administered in the country. Recently, India also approved Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine for emergency use, while many more are in the pipeline for approval and roll-out.