Days after it was widely reported that India has exported more number of COVID-19 vaccine doses than it has inoculated its own people, the Centre has reportedly put on temporary hold all major exports of Oxford-AstraZeneca’s Covishield, which is being produced in the country by Pune-based Serum Institute of India [SII].
India’s move is in line with an effort to first meet the domestic demand in view of a rise in infections in the country, according to a report by Reuters. The decision comes after the government this week decided to expand its immunisation purview to vaccinate everyone above the age of 45 from April 1. Right now, only above-45 with comorbidities are being inoculated.
The impact of the export halt will be felt on supplies to GAVI/WHO-backed COVAX vaccine-sharing system which ensures vaccines for 64 lower-income nations from the SII, it quoted UNICEF as saying. It said COVAX is in talks with India to ensure quick deliveries.
The report points out that India has so far supplied 17.7 million Covishield doses from SII for the COVAX programme, but there has been no exports since Thursday according to the foreign ministry’s website.
Quoting unnamed sources who have direct knowledge of the developments, the report said India has decided on zero exports until the situation stabilises and the government won’t take any chance right now when a massive chunk of Indians are still awaiting vaccination.
Meanwhile, delay were already there in the shipments of Covishield vaccines to Brazil, Britain, Morocco and Saudi Arabia, while COVAX too has signed up for 1.1 billion doses of Covishield and Novavax for low- and middle-income countries.
India has reported over 11.7 million cases of the infection so far, to be only behind Brazil and US, and has vaccinated 53 million people till now, mostly with SII’s Covishield and the rest with Bharat Biotech’s indigenously-developed Covaxin vaccine.