India’s federal government will provide free coronavirus shots to any adult starting later this month and take back control of the country’s vaccination drive, marred by delays and shortages, Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced Monday.
The changes reverse a policy launched in April which tasked states and the private sector with vaccinating those between the ages of 18 and 44. The federal government will now procure 75% of all vaccines directly from the manufacturers and provide them to the states for free, while the remaining 25% will be purchased by the private sector.
Under the earlier policy, the federal government gave free shots to people above 45 years of age and front-line workers, leaving states and private hospitals to administer inoculations to those between 18 and 44.
Although most states vaccinated those in this age group for free, they were competing for doses with the private sector. Experts say vaccine makers reaped more profits by selling at a higher price to the private sector, causing many states to scramble for supplies.
Modi’s announcement in a nationally televised speech came as pressure was mounting on his government to speed up vaccinations and ensure equity. Last week, the Supreme Court called the previous vaccination policy “arbitrary and irrational.”