India may raise spending on COVID-19 shots by over a quarter this fiscal year to up to Rs 45,000 crore from its budgeted amount, two government sources told Reuters after Prime Minister Narendra Modi offered free doses to all adults.
PM Modi said in an address to the nation on Monday that the government would bear the cost of vaccinating all adults from June 21. His previous policy of getting states to pay for immunisations for those aged under 45 years was widely criticised.
The sources, who did not want to be named, said the government would spend up to Rs 45,000 crore on COVID-19 vaccines this fiscal, which started on April 1. The previously budgeted amount was Rs 35,000 crore.
One of the sources said part of the increase could be due to higher-than-previous costs for domestically manufactured shots. He did not elaborate. The Finance Ministry did not immediately respond to an email seeking comment.
India is currently using the AstraZeneca vaccine produced by the Serum Institute of India, and another developed at home by Bharat Biotech. Russia’s Sputnik V will be commercially launched in the country in the middle of the month.
PM Modi’s policy shift underscored a drive to rein in a COVID-19 pandemic that has killed hundreds of thousands in India and led to the world’s second-highest tally of infections.
It followed weeks of criticism of a bungled vaccine rollout that has covered fewer than 5 per cent of India’s estimated adult population of 950 million.