Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharama on Monday approved an advance payment of over Rs 4,500 crore for India’s vaccine makers Serum Institute of India (SII) and Bharat Biotech to boost vaccine production in the country, ANI reported quoting sources.

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This comes after the central government earlier announced measures to takle a rampant COVID wave in the country, including relaxing eligibility criteria for vaccination and ramping up production.

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According to the ANI sources, the finance ministry cleared a payment of Rs 3,000 crore for SII, the world’s largest vaccine maker which makes the AstraZeneca-Oxford University Covishield vaccine, and Rs 1,567.50 crore for Bharat Biotech, which makes the indegenously-developed Covaxin. 

Adarsh Poonawala, chief executive of the Pune-based SII, had earlier called for an injection of Rs 3,000 crore in order for the company to ramp up vaccine production amid “very stressed” capacity. 

Earlier today, the government relaxed the eligibility criteria for recipients of the vaccine, allowing everyone above the age of 18 to be administered with the shots. 

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The governement also said vaccine manufacturers will be incentivised to ramp-up production, while new national and international players will be roped in to increase availability of shots.