India extends COVID-19 booster shots to all adults

NEW DELHI (AP) — India on Sunday began offering booster doses of the COVID-19 vaccine to all adults, but limited free shots at government centers to frontline workers and people over 60. years.

The doses, which India calls a “precautionary” injection instead of a booster, are available to people nine months after receiving their second injection, the health ministry said in a statement on Friday. Those not in the two priority categories will have to pay for shots at private facilities, the ministry said.

Unlike other countries, where many people receive a different vaccine as a booster, most Indians have received the same type – in most cases the AstraZeneca vaccine produced by India’s Serum Institute, India’s largest vaccine manufacturer in the world. It accounts for almost 90% of all doses administered in India, although emergency approvals have been granted for eight vaccines.

On Saturday, the Serum Institute of India said it had reduced the price of its AstraZeneca vaccine from $7.90 a dose to $2.96 for private hospitals.

India has so far vaccinated around 96% of people aged 15 and above with at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, while around 83% have received both shots, according to official data.

India’s booster program began in January when healthcare and frontline workers as well as people over 60 with medical conditions were allowed to receive injections.

India has seen a sharp drop in coronavirus cases in recent weeks, with the health ministry reporting 1,054 cases in the past 24 hours.

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