India is likely to resume exports of COVID-19 vaccines as the government has partly immunized a majority of its adults and supplies have surged. The Indian government had stopped vaccine supports in April when the brutal second wave of COVID infections struck the nation.
A source told Reuters that the export decision is a done deal. “India wants to help out Africa with both vaccines and its COVID operational model.” It should be noted that the government’s deliberations comes just ahead of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Washington next week. Reports highlight that talks, at a summit of leaders of the Quad countries, are likely to focus on vaccines.
However, the Ministry of External Affairs, one of whose senior officials met with the chief of WHO on Monday, hasn’t commented anything on this. WHO, on Tuesday, said it was in a constant dialogue with Indian officials to resume supplies to global vaccine-sharing platform COVAX. The Washington Post states that mixed messaging has clouded production forecasts, even as US President Joe Biden plans to call on global leaders to make new commitments to fight the pandemic, including fully vaccinating 70% of the world’s population by next September.
India’s ban on COVID vaccines exports has been particularly devastating for lower-income countries that are bearing the brunt of the latest wave of the pandemic. There are also other concerns. The prospect of booster shots in India threatens to further starve other countries of the Indian-made doses they need.
Last week, Covax officials said India’s export curb was one of the reasons the program would only have access to about 1.4 billion doses by the end of 2021, far short of the two billion doses it had planned for. According to an Axios report, Biden administration officials are also working to incentivize India to resume vaccine exports. But the officials, conscious of America’s booster program and the White House’s decision to restrict exports of key raw materials that go into vaccine production, have been cautious about pushing too hard.
Bruce Aylward, a senior WHO official, in a briefing said they have been assured that supply will restart this year. “We are hoping we can get an assurance it can start even faster than later this year, and in the coming weeks.”