The governments of Madhya Pradesh, Kerala and Chhattisgarh on Wednesday announced that their residents over 18 years will be given Covid-19 vaccines for free from May 1. This came a day after Uttar Pradesh and Assam announced that they will provide free coronavirus vaccines to all adults above 18.

“Expenses, to vaccinate all aged above 18 years in Chhattisgarh, will be borne by the state government,” Chhattisgarh Chief Minister Bhupesh Baghel tweeted. “We will take all possible steps to protect lives of citizens. [We] request [the] central government to ensure availability of an adequate number of vaccines.”

Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister’s Shivraj Singh Chouhan made the announcement after a Cabinet meeting.

In Kerala, Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan announced it at a press conference on the coronavirus situation. “Kerala government to provide Covid-19 vaccine free of cost for all above 18 years of age,” Vijayan said, according to ANI.

At the same time, he also urged the Centre to give vaccines to the states for free, instead of pushing them to further economic crisis. “The state governments have been asked to buy vaccines,” he said. “But states are already going through a financial burden because of Covid-19.”

On Tuesday, Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Adityanath said that younger people were more vulnerable in the second wave of the coronavirus, The Indian Express reported. “It was essential to provide them protection as people under 45 years of age have to stay outdoors in order to take care of their parents or children,” he added.

Adityanath urged people not to stop wearing masks and follow physical distancing rules. He thanked Prime Minister Narendra Modi and scientists for making two vaccines available to Indians.

Uttar Pradesh on Tuesday registered 29,754 new coronavirus cases, taking its overall count of infections since the beginning of the pandemic in January 2020 to 9,09,405. The state’s toll rose by 163 to 10,519.

Meanwhile, Assam Health Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma said the state government had ordered one crore doses of Covaxin from Bharat Biotech.

Assam registered 1,651 new coronavirus cases on Tuesday. The government enforced new curbs under which all shops and restaurants will be closed by 6 pm.

Amid the surge in cases, the Centre on Monday announced that everyone above 18 years of age can get vaccinated from May 1. Only those over 45 and frontline workers were being vaccinated against the disease so far.

In the third phase of the immunisation programme, vaccine manufacturers will have to supply 50% of their monthly Central Drugs Laboratory released doses to the Centre. They will be free to supply the remaining 50% doses to state governments and in the open market, the Centre said.

The Centre had also liberalised and deregulated vaccine prices, which means the cost of getting inoculated will vary in each state. Unless the states subsidise the shots, the doses are also likely to get very expensive, a decision that has drawn criticism from some experts and Opposition party, the Congress.

Maharashtra to import vaccines

The Uddhav Thackeray government in Maharashtra said it will import vaccines from other countries and money will be diverted from all the departments to carry out an extensive inoculation drive, similar to the immunisation programme of the United Kingdom, PTI reported.

“Today, 60% of UK’s population is vaccinated,” Maharashtra Health Minister Rajesh Tope said. “Very few new cases are being detected, while the death toll is in single digits. The entire country was kept under lockdown for three months and the vaccination drive was carried out on a massive scale.”

The minister added that the government will bid for vaccines made in other countries such as Sputnik-V, Pfizer and Moderna, if they are available. He said the state will not limit their vaccination drive to just Serum Institute’s Covishield and Bharat Biotech’s Covaxin, which are manufactured in India.

Maharashtra, the worst-hit state by the pandemic, has recorded more than 50,000 cases a day over the last two weeks.

On Tuesday morning, India recorded 2,59,170 new coronavirus cases, taking its tally of infections since the beginning of the pandemic in January 2020 to 1,53,21,089. With 1,761 deaths, the toll rose to 1,80,530.

Also read: India’s decision to liberalise vaccine sales likely to push up prices – and block access to millions