India offers free COVID-19 vaccines to all as daily cases hit 68-day low

Summary

  • India has declared to offer free vaccines to all adults.
  • The move comes a week after the top court lashed out at the central government for botched-up vaccine rollout.
  • The daily cases in the country have slipped to a 68-day low.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi offered free vaccines to all the adults in the country on a day when COVID-19 cases touched its lowest level in 68 days – first time below the 100,000-mark.

“Whether it is the poor, the lower middle class, the middle class, or the upper middle class, under the federal government program, everyone will get free vaccines,” Mr Modi said in live address to the nation on Monday evening.

Mr Modi added that the Indian federal government, which has been criticised for mismanaging the pandemic and a botched-up vaccination programme, will account for procurement of 75% of COVID-19 vaccines from the manufacturers. The federal government will then provide these vaccines free to the provincial governments for inoculation. The remaining 25% of the procurement would be available for private players.

However, experts suggest that Mr Modi’s decision came only after India’s top court came down heavily on the federal governments vaccine policy. Last week, a bench of India’s apex court -- the Supreme Court of India – led by celebrated judge – Justice DY Chandrachud – slammed the government’s policy of free vaccines for people who are 45 and above and paid doses for the 18-44 group as "arbitrary and irrational".

This is a complete turnaround from government’s earlier policy. Under a liberalised policy rolled out by the Modi-led federal government, that came into effect on May 1, the provincial governments and private hospitals were allowed to buy vaccines directly from manufacturers. However, at the same time the federal government opened vaccinations to all adults continuing to offer free jabs for people above age of 45 years.

The announcement from Mr Modi – who many have criticised for being missing in action as the country was ripped apart by the pandemic – came on a day when cases touched a 68-day low. The country reported 87,295 cases on Monday – just one fifth of the peak level recorded a month ago. The last time India reported such a low daily case count was on April 1, 2021, when it had reported 81,398 in a day.

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