India will provide free COVID-19 vaccines for all adults from June 21 onwards.
In a televised address to the nation, Prime Minister Narendra Modi also said that the federal government would take over the vaccination drive from state governments.
This is a reversal of a previous policy which saw only the elderly and frontline workers being given free vaccine shots, while people in the 18-45 age group had to pay a fee to state governments and private hospitals to get their jabs.
The move comes following severe criticisms against Modi's administration over the deadly second wave of the coronavirus, which witnessed the shortage of hospital beds, oxygen, and vaccine. Parks and parking lots were turned into makeshift crematoriums as bodies piled up at a rapid pace.
Several major Indian cities, including its capital New Delhi, and its economic hub Maharashtra, are preparing to ease lockdown restrictions as the number of new infections has dipped in the last two weeks.
With more than 28.9 million cases, and over 351,000 deaths, India is the second worst-hit country by the pandemic, after the United States.
Scientists have now warned that a third wave of the virus may hit India later this year, likely impacting children more. So far, only about 5.9% of India's 1.3 billion population have been fully vaccinated.
Globally, the coronavirus has infected more than 174 million people, and killed over 3.75 million.
Photo source: Reuters
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