Owing to domestic demand brought about by the second wave of infections, India is unlikely to resume major exports of COVID-19 vaccines until October. The country is in the midst of battling the world’s worst surge and this has impacted vaccine supply to other countries.
India had to abruptly halt vaccine exports a month ago and this has left countries like Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, and Nepal looking for alternatives. As such, the World Health Organization on Monday called on vaccine makers outside India to boost supplies to the COVAX programme.
According to Reuters, India’s vaccination drive will now take priority as its tally of coronavirus infections crosses 25 million and daily death toll hits record high. “We don’t have to officially convey to all countries as we are not obligated to,” a source said. “It was internally discussed and some countries were asked not to expect export commitments given the current situation in India.”
Other sources told Reuters that the exact timing for resuming exports could change depending on how soon India is able to control the second wave of infections that has overwhelmed the healthcare system. COVAX co-lead GAVI highlighted that at least 140 million doses it had expected from the Serum Institute by May-end will now remain in India. “As India confronts a truly dreadful wave of the pandemic, Indian vaccine production, including the 140 million vaccine doses initially destined for COVAX have been committed to protecting its own citizens,” a spokesperson said. “We offer the government of India our full support in their effort to bring the virus under control and stand ready to help in any way we can.”
Meanwhile, the US has announced that it will export at least 20 million doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson shots, as well as 60 million AstraZeneca doses.