(CNN)Indian citizens 18 or older will be eligible for the Covid-19 vaccines starting May 1, according to a statement released by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare on the Press Information Bureau website.
India will offer Covid-19 vaccines to everyone 18+ in May
"In a meeting chaired by [Prime Minister] Narendra Modi, an important decision of allowing vaccination to everyone above the age of 18 from 1st May has been taken," the statement noted. "He added that India is vaccinating people at world record pace & we will continue this with even greater momentum."
However, it is unclear whether the world's second most populous country, with nearly 1.4 billion people, currently has enough vaccines to meet expanded demand. Currently, only people who are health care workers, front line workers or 45 years and older are eligible to be vaccinated India, and vaccine supplies have already dried up in some places with at least five states reporting severe shortages.
Meanwhile, a fresh wave of the coronavirus pandemic is sweeping the country. India has so far recorded a total of 15,061,919 Covid-19 cases and 178,769 deaths, according to the health ministry. The country recently added a million new cases in less than a week, surpassing 14 million total cases on Thursday.
With this latest announcement, India's vaccination campaign will split into two strands. Government centers will continue to give free vaccines to health care workers, frontline workers and those who are 45 or older. But starting May 1, private vaccination providers will be able to charge and provide vaccines to everyone aged 18 or older.
The Indian government does not plan to not make use of imported vaccines it authorizes, but private providers may do so. The government has been taking steps to expand its vaccine availability; last week, it fast-tracked emergency use authorization for Covid-19 vaccines approved in other countries.
Under the "Liberalized and Accelerated Phase 3 Strategy of the National Covid-19 Vaccination program," Indian vaccine manufacturers would supply 50% of their monthly doses to the central government; they would then be free to supply the remaining 50% doses to state governments and on the open market.
India produces more than 60% of all vaccines sold globally, and is home to the Serum Institute of India (SII), the world's largest vaccine maker. The country has been working with COVAX, a global vaccine-sharing initiative that provides discounted or free doses for lower-income countries.
However, in the face of this crisis, the Indian government and SII have shifted focus to prioritizing their own citizens.
India had administered more than 123 million doses of the Covid-19 vaccine as of Monday, according to the health ministry's website.