Amidst the terrific COVID-19 crisis, India’s federal government has now announced that it will provide free coronavirus shots to any adult starting later this month and take control over the country’s vaccination drive. Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced on Monday that after several delays and shortages, the government is now ready to provide vaccination for free.
The changes reverse a policy launched in April that had tasked the states and the private sector to vaccinate those between the ages of 18 and 44. The federal government is now ready to procure 75% of all vaccines directly from the manufacturers and supply them to the states for free, while the remaining 25% will be purchased by the private sector.
As per the earlier policy, the federal government provided free shots to people above the age of 45 years and the front-line workers, leaving the states and the private hospitals to administer the inoculations to those between the age group of 18 and 44.
Although most of the states vaccinated people between 18 and 44 for free, they were competing for doses with the private sector. The experts say that the vaccine makers have reaped more profits by selling them at a higher price to the private sector that caused many states to scramble for supplies.
The announcement made by Modi in a nationally televised speech came in as pressure was mounting on his government to speed up the vaccination procedure and ensure equity.
India has administered over 222 million vaccinations and less than 5% of the country’s population has been fully inoculated so far.
India’s capital New Delhi has allowed the shops and the businesses to reopen within limited hours on Monday and its Metro which serves the adjoining areas to the city has already resumed the operations at 50% capacity.
New Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal said on Sunday that now that the corona situation is under control so the economy must be brought back on track.
The strict lockdown measures that had been implied since April at the beginning of a devastating surge in infections had been dragged into May and had overwhelmed the health care facilities of the country.
Some front-line workers fear that the restrictions have been eased too soon and that there are still concerns that the virus will spread unchecked through India’s villages, where the testing and medical care facilities are limited.
In Maharashtra, which is one of the worst-hit states, the movie theaters, malls, offices, and restaurants have reopened in districts where the test positivity is below 5%. The state’s huge rail network is however to remain closed for the public.
The other Indian cities have also started to gradually lift the lockdown restrictions.
In May, the country witnessed a peak of above 400000 cases, with new death counts and new infections. The government now hopes that the reopening could save the economy that grew at only a 1.6% annual rate during the quarter of January-March.