India begins vaccine change policy as 2nd virus wave ebbs rapidly
New Delhi, June 21 (EFE).- India Monday added a little over 53,000 coronavirus infections, the lowest spike in three months, marking a steady decline in the number of daily cases even as the overall caseload was a little shy of the 30-million mark.
The government Monday began a free vaccination drive for all above 18 years in a policy change to speed up the sluggish inoculation drive in the country devastated by the second wave of the virus in the last few months.
The federal health ministry data showed that 53,419 people tested Covid-19 positive in the last 24 hours from Sunday morning, taking the overall tally of infections to over 29.93 million in the country.
The figure is the second-highest number of infections behind the United States, with 34.4 million cases since the disease outbreak early last year.
The Indian health ministry said 1,422 people lost their lives due to Covid-19 over the past day, raising the death toll to more than 388,000.
The decline in the number of infections and fatalities marks a stark contrast to the peak of the second wave when the country reported more than 400,000 cases daily for five days in a row from May 1.
The daily number of deaths crossed the 4,000-mark for many days during the more virulent and fast-spreading second wave.
With the deadly second wave of the virus showing clear signs of ebbing, the Indian government bets on its vaccination drive amid a push for herd immunity against Covid-19.
On May 1, the government extended the drive to people between 18 and 44 but left the process and the vaccine acquisition to state governments.
Activists, regional governments, and the judiciary widely criticized the policy.
The Supreme Court found it flawed, prompting the federal government to centralize the procurement and provide free vaccines to the 18-44 age group.
The government’s U-turn came after the top court slammed the central government over its decentralized vaccine procurement, differential pricing, and paid inoculation for 18 to 44 years of age.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi later announced that the government would change its course and make jabs cost-free for all.
As per the new policy, the federal government will procure 75 percent of total vaccines and distribute them to states.
Private hospitals will purchase the rest 25 percent and charge a maximum of 150 Indian rupees ($2) per dose. EFE