India will open up COVID-19 vaccines to everyone over 18 as part of its liberalised and accelerated phase III of the immunisation strategy starting from 1 May, the ministry of health and family welfare said on Monday.
Earlier in the day, India reported 273,810 new COVID-19 cases, hitting another all-time daily high. With a population of almost 1.4 billion, the country has administered over 123 million vaccine doses. The Indian regulator has so far approved three vaccines — two domestically-produced shots and Russia's Sputnik V.
"In a meeting chaired by [Prime Minister] Narendra Modi, an important decision of allowing vaccination to everyone above the age of 18 from 1st May has been taken", the ministry said.
The country embarked on phase I of the vaccination campaign in mid-January, putting frontline workers and healthcare staff first in line to receive the shots.
During phase 2 from 1 March, India expanded the vaccination drive to all those aged over 45.
As part of phase III, India will also liberalize vaccine pricing to boost production and attract new manufacturers, both domestic and international.
Manufacturers would be required to make an advance declaration of the price for 50% supply that would be available to state governments and in open market before 1 May.
"Vaccination shall continue as before in Govt. of India vaccination centres, provided free of cost to the eligible population as defined earlier i.e. Health Care Workers (HCWs), Front Line Workers (FLWs) and all people above 45 years of age", the ministry continued.
Those people from priority groups who are awaiting a second dose will be prioritized in the imminusation campaign.