India on Monday expanded its COVID-19 vaccination campaign to cover people over 60 years of age as it hopes to address a spike in infections as well as vaccine hesitancy among people.
Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, took the jab at a Delhi government hospital becoming the first beneficiary of the vaccination drive’s second phase.
“I appeal to all those who are eligible to take the vaccine. Together, let us make India COVID-19 free,” Modi said in a message addressing vaccine hesitancy.
The country began inoculating its 1.3 billion population from Jan. 16, in what is the world’s largest vaccination programme.
It planned to vaccinate 30 million frontline workers and healthcare staff initially but has struggled, only managing 14.3 million shots so far.
Registrations for people over 60 and those over 45 with multiple medical conditions opened on Monday morning on a government website and app, with vaccinations due to begin in the afternoon.
The government hopes to vaccinate 300 million people in the second phase by July, a formidable challenge given the slow rollout owing to vaccine hesitancy, glitches in registration and bureaucracy.
India has reported more than 11 million cases of COVID-19 infections so far, second only to the United States.
There was a sharp decline in cases after the pandemic peaked around mid-September but the number of new infections is again on an upward trajectory in major states in recent weeks amid concerns that mutated strains may be circulating in the country.
While the jabs at government facilities will be free, private hospitals can charge up to 250 rupees (3.4 dollars) for one shot of the vaccine, the government said.