India to extend vaccine rollout to all adults over 18

New Delhi, Apr 19 (EFE).- The Indian government on Monday said it would extend its vaccine rollout to all adults over the age of 18 to speed up its Covid-19 vaccination program amid a surge in coronavirus cases.

As part of the new plan, which is to come into effect on 1 May, anyone under 45 who wants to book a vaccine appointment will have to do so in the private health sector.

In a meeting chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, authorities agreed to flexibilize vaccine procurement, pricing and administration to boost the next stage of the country’s rollout, a statement from the health ministry said.

According to the new strategy, manufacturers will earmark 50% of their vaccines for the Indian government while the remaining 50% could be sold directly to state governments and private hospitals for a price declared in advance.

This would allow state authorities to buy more vaccines to add to the ones provided by the central government.

“The eligibility through this channel would be opened up to all adults, i.e. everyone over 18,” the statement said.

People in priority groups over the age of 45 and healthcare workers will continue to be offered free vaccines at government-run centers.

India has administered 124 million vaccines so far in its rollout, which began three months ago and originally aimed to immunize everyone over 50 and front-line workers within six months.

So far, India has been manufacturing and using just two vaccines: Covishield, jointly developed by British-Swedish lab AstraZeneca and the University of Oxford, which is being manufactured through an agreement with the Serum Institute of India, and the indigenous Covaxin, developed by Indian lab Bharat Biotech.

The SII, the largest producer of vaccines in the world, which has made 90% of the doses administered in India so far, recently warned that the country would need more manufacturers to supply the demand of a population totaling 1.35 billion people.

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