India said on Tuesday everybody above 45 years will be eligible for coronavirus vaccination from April 1, in an expansion of its programme.

Information minister Prakash Javadekar said the country had enough vaccine doses available.

At present, only citizens who are above 60 and those over 45 with other illnesses are allowed to get vaccination.

“This decision has been taken by cabinet on the basis of the advice of the coronavirus Task Force and experts,” said Javadekar.

On the centre's letter to states yesterday to increase the gap between two doses of Serum Institute of India's Covishield – developed by Oxford-Astrazeneca – Javadekar said doctors would prescribe the right time for the second dose.

“The second dose has to be between four to eight weeks. Doctors will decide when it is best to take the second shot,” the Union Minister said.

Odisha warns of vaccine shortage, immunisations hit record

Meanwhile, Odisha might have to stop its coronavirus vaccination drive for four days because of a shortage of doses, according to a letter reviewed by Reuters, even as overall inoculations hit a record on Tuesday.

India's COVID-19 caseload has risen to 11.69 million amid a second surge of infections, leading many states to ask the government to replenish vaccine stocks so they can cover more people faster. India has reported the third-highest total of coronavirus cases after the United States and Brazil.

India, the world's biggest vaccine maker, has donated or sold more than 60 million doses to 76 countries, compared with nearly 48 million doses given at home, leading to criticisms of its vaccine diplomacy. If supply tightens at home, many countries reliant on India for doses could also suffer. The sudden surge in demand is piling pressure on vaccine makers the Serum Institute of India (SII) and Bharat Biotech to boost production. SII has already delayed further shipments of the AstraZeneca shot to the United Kingdom, Brazil, Saudi Arabia, and Morocco.

In a letter to the Indian Ministry of Health and Family Welfare dated March 22, P.K. Mohapatra, Odisha's additional chief secretary for health, warned the state only had enough doses to run its vaccination drive until March 30. It is expecting another batch of the AstraZeneca vaccine, locally known as Covishield, only on April 2. "We will have no vaccines for 4 days," he said. "Hence, adequate doses of Covishield vaccine may be supplied in time so as to continue uninterrupted vaccination drive in our state. Your urgent attention is drawn to the above issue."

Odisha has nearly 44 million people and its capital Bhubaneswar is located about 360 km (224 miles) southwest of Kolkata. The federal health ministry did not immediately respond to requests for comment on Odisha's letter.


Despite the looming vaccination slowdown in Odhisa, overall injections have climbed to a daily record, with the health ministry reporting 3.2 million doses were administered in the past 24 hours. India launched its campaign in the middle of January, later than the United States, Britain, and China.

India's total vaccinations are the third highest in the world after the U.S. and China, though per capita it is ranked lower, according to the Our World in Data website. The country wants to vaccinate 300 million of its 1.35 billion people by August.

Other Indian states, including Rajasthan, have also flagged a supply crunch, even though the federal government has for now advised limiting vaccinations to the elderly and people above 45 suffering from other health conditions. Many states have sought to expand their vaccination campaigns to cover all adults because infections have risen since late February after the economy fully reopened and as most people still go without masks and flout social distancing advice.

Some states have also administered doses to a small number of people outside the prioritized groups to avoid vaccine wastage as vials need to be consumed within four hours after opening.

About 6.5% of coronavirus vaccine doses in India are going to waste, the health ministry said last week, making it vital for health workers to coordinate the flow of recipients.

India reported 40,715 new COVID-19 cases in the past 24 hours, with its richest state Maharashtra, home to the country's financial capital of Mumbai, accounting for more than 60% of the total. Deaths rose by 199 to 160,166.