NEW DELHI — India’s health ministry said on Friday that the country would begin administering a third coronavirus shot for people between the ages of 18 and 60 beginning April 10. Until now, a third shot was only available for health care workers and people 60 years and older.
Health experts expressed relief over the announcement, which comes at a time when cases are spiraling upward in China, South Korea, Taiwan, Germany, France and a number of other countries. “I am delighted, and it is always better late than never,” Dr. Rajesh Parikh, the director of medical research at Jaslok Hospital in Mumbai, told NDTV.
The move came with a few limits: People must wait at least nine months between the second and the third shot. And unlike the first two shots, which were free for all, the third shot for people between the ages of 18 and 60 will have to be paid for out of pocket, and will be available exclusively at private facilities. (The shots will still be free for health care workers and people 60 and older.)
A third shot of the AstraZeneca vaccine, which was used in more than 80 percent of India’s inoculations, will cost around $12 (900 rupees), Adar Poonawalla, the chief executive of the Serum Institute of India, said in television interviews.
On Friday, India recorded 11,492 cases and 43 deaths, according to figures from the health ministry. In January, the country was reporting more than 300,000 infections and over 1,000 deaths a day.
At least 96 percent of Indians above the age of 15 have received one shot of a coronavirus vaccine and 83 percent have received a second shot, the health ministry has said.
One of the reasons for the government’s announcement on Friday, experts said, is that many Indians who have received the first two shots are finding it hard to travel abroad without booster certificates.
“Many people have different perspectives about their health, some of them want to go the extra mile and believe that this third dose will help them,” Dr. Rajeev Jayadevan, a member of the Indian Medical Association’s coronavirus task force, told NDTV.