The central government on Monday allowed everyone above the age of 18 to get the Covid-19 vaccine starting May 1 as the country continued to register a sharp spike in cases in the second wave of the pandemic. Earlier, only those above the age of 45 and frontline health workers were eligible for vaccination.
The “Liberalised and Accelerated Phase 3 Strategy of Covid-19 Vaccination”, which will be implemented from May 1, was announced after the decision was taken in a meeting chaired by PM Narendra Modi.
“India has been following a dynamic mapping model based on availability of vaccines & coverage of vulnerable priority groups to take decisions of when to open up vaccinations to other age-groups. A good amount of coverage of vulnerable groups is expected by 30th April,” said a press release by the Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare.
The decision comes even as several states in the recent days have flagged shortage in vaccine supply. However, the Centre insisted that it had 40 million doses in stock and that the "allegations" of vaccine shortage were "utterly baseless".
Phase-I of the vaccination was launched on January 16 this year for Health Care Workers (HCWs) and Front Line Workers (FLWs). Then, Phase-II was initiated from March 1, 2021 for all people above 45 years of age, who account for more than 80% Covid mortality in the country, the Health Ministry said.
Currently, emergency use authorisation has been granted to two indigenously manufactured vaccines (Serum Institute of India and Bharat Biotech), and a third vaccine (Sputnik of Russia). Sputnik is presently manufactured abroad but it will eventually be manufactured in India, the Ministry said.
In its Phase-III, the National Vaccine Strategy aims at liberalising vaccine pricing and scaling up vaccine coverage.
Vaccine manufacturers would now supply 50% of their monthly Central Drugs Laboratory (CDL) released doses to the Centre and would be free to supply the remaining 50% doses to state governments and in the open market at a pre-declared price.
Thus, vaccine manufacturers have been “incentivized” to scale up their production, as well as attract new national and international players
The Ministry further said that states have been empowered to procure additional vaccine doses directly from the manufacturers.
The government’s vaccination drive will continue as before “providing free vaccination for essential and priority populations,” which are healthcare and frontline workers, and population above 45 years of age.
More than 112 million vaccine doses were administered across the country till Sunday morning.