NEW DELHI, India — In hopes of taming a monstrous spike in COVID-19 infections, India opened vaccinations to all adults Saturday, launching a huge inoculation effort that was sure to tax the limits of the federal government, the country’s vaccine factories and the patience of its 1.4 billion people.
The world’s largest maker of vaccines was still short of critical supplies — the result of lagging manufacturing and raw material shortages that delayed the rollout in several states.
And even in places where the shots were in stock, the country’s wide economic disparities made access to the vaccine inconsistent.
The country’s ambitious effort was also partly overshadowed Saturday by a fire in a COVID-19 ward in western India that killed 18 patients, and the death of 12 COVID-19 patients at a hospital in New Delhi after the facility ran out of oxygen for 80 minutes.
Only a fraction of India’s population will be able to afford the prices charged by private hospitals for the shot, experts said, meaning that states will be saddled with immunizing the 600 million Indian adults younger than 45, while the federal government gives shots to 300 million health care and front-line workers and people older than 45.
So far, government vaccines have been free, and private hospitals have been permitted to sell shots at a price capped at 250 rupees, or around $3.
That practice will now change: Prices for state governments and private hospitals will be determined by vaccine companies. Some states might not be able to provide vaccines for free since they are paying twice as much as the federal government for the same shot, and prices at private hospitals could rise.
Reporting by Sean Tyler Chan / AdChoiceTV News