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image copyrightGetty Imagesimage captionCitizens of the city of Kolkata being vaccinated

India has launched a new vaccine drive, announcing a record eight million jabs on the first day of the programme.

The new policy sees the federal government buying Covid-19 jabs from manufacturers and supplying to states.

India is one of the largest vaccine makers in the world but its own vaccination drive has been moving at a slow pace.

It has fully vaccinated just over 5% of the total eligible population so far and shortages persist in many states.

To scale up the vaccination drive, Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced earlier this month that everyone would get "free vaccines" from 21 June.

On the first day of the new policy he praised the pace of India's vaccine programme.

Today’s record-breaking vaccination numbers are gladdening. The vaccine remains our strongest weapon to fight COVID-19. Congratulations to those who got vaccinated and kudos to all the front-line warriors working hard to ensure so many citizens got the vaccine.

Well done India!

— Narendra Modi (@narendramodi) June 21, 2021
The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites.View original tweet on TwitterHow has the policy changed?

Prime Minister Modi's announcement came in a national address on TV, in which he talked about the history and logistics of vaccine programmes in India.

Under the previous Covid vaccine policy, half of all vaccines produced in India went to the federal government, and the rest were sent to state administrations and private hospitals.

image copyrightReutersimage captionPrime Minister Modi made a national TV address on the vaccination programme (file photo)

Although the states competed on the open market for the vaccines doses for 18-44 age group, recipients were able to get them for free at state government's vaccination centres.

Meanwhile, the federal government was vaccinating frontline workers and those aged above 45 years – also for free.

Under the new policy the federal government will now buy 75% of all vaccines manufactured.

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The state governments will receive their vaccines doses for free from the federal government, instead of negotiating directly with manufacturers.

However, it's worth noting that the remaining 25% of vaccines are still set aside for procurement by private hospitals as before.

These vaccinations are not free – and have to be paid for at private hospitals.

The federal government has fixed prices for the three approved vaccines at 780 rupees ($10.7; £7.5) for Covishield, 1,145 rupees ($15.7; £11) for Sputnik V, and 1,410 rupees ($19.3; £13.6) for Covaxin.

What does it mean in practice?

It means that state governments will now receive their allocated vaccine doses from the federal government based on the population of those states, the level of disease, vaccination progress and vaccine wastage.

That relieves the state authorities of having to purchase doses from the manufacturer at higher prices than were offered to the federal government.

image copyrightGetty Images

It also hands more control over the vaccine rollout to the federal government.

The announcement also happened just days after the previous policy attracted criticism from India's top court, which called it "arbitrary" and "irrational".

It questioned the rationale behind making states pay more for vaccines than the federal government had to.

States had to procure them on the open market, and so the financial burden on some of the poorest states such as Bihar, Jharkhand and Uttar Pradesh significantly increased.

"This is a step in the right direction and will streamline some procurement-related challenges," says Dr Lahariya.

What does it mean for ordinary people?

"This announcement doesn't change much for citizens," says health policy expert Dr Chandrakant Lahariya, as the vaccines were already free at government centres.

The new policy is in fact similar to what India did when it began its vaccine rollout in January this year.

This was even acknowledged by Mr Modi himself, who said "the old system, in place before 1 May, will be implemented again."

The original policy was changed in April, when India was hit by a dramatic surge in case numbers and India's vaccine drive was faltering.

States were then allowed to bid for vaccines directly from manufacturers, which it was hoped would encourage other vaccine makers to enter the Indian market and boost supply.

  • Can India get all adults vaccinated this year?

But it didn't work out like that, and shortages of vaccines began to emerge in a number of places as supply couldn't keep up with demand.

We've looked elsewhere at the challenges that face Indian vaccine manufacturers in trying to ramp up production.

How is the vaccination drive going?

India has administered over 276 million vaccine doses since January, that's less than 30% of the eligible adult population.

India's adult population is estimated as being around 950 million.

The vaccine drive picked up pace in early April, with 3.66 million doses administered on 10 April, the highest so far.

But that figure then fell by nearly half in mid-May and several states suspended vaccinations for the 18-44 age group due to shortages. Experts say that India failed to order enough vaccines last year to avoid shortages.

The Indian government has pledged to vaccinate all adults by the end of the year, a target many experts say will be difficult to meet at the current pace.

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