Reuters/ New Delhi
Indian officials and health experts yesterday welcomed a federal government plan to give free Covid-19 shots to all adults as a step in the right direction, but cautioned that vaccinations must be accelerated to prevent new surges in infections.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi said on Monday the federal government would take over the inoculation programme from Indian states and offer free doses to everyone over the age of 18.
His announcement on national television followed weeks of criticism of a vaccine rollout that has covered fewer than 5% of India’s estimated adult population of 950mn.
This has left the country vulnerable to another wave of infections after a surge in April-May which government data showed killed 170,000.
“Took him four months but after much pressure, he has finally listened to us and implemented what we’ve been asking all this while,” Mamata Banerjee, chief minister of West Bengal state, wrote on Twitter.
India has been giving an average of 2.4mn shots a day.
Health officials say this is far from adequate for a country as large as India.
“We need to vaccinate 7mn-8mn persons per day to meet the target of covering all the eligible persons before the end of December,” Giridhara Babu, a member of the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), the country’s main health research agency, told Reuters.
Babu is part of the national taskforce’s working group on epidemiology and surveillance. Daily infections have fallen and officials aim to switch the focus to mass vaccinations.
India reported 86,498 new cases overnight, the lowest number in over two months and a sharp drop from a peak of around 400,000 a day in May.
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