NEW DELHI (Reuters) – India temporarily suspended all major exports of the AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine by the Serum Institute of India (SII), the world’s largest vaccine maker, to meet domestic demand as infections rise. two sources said. Reuters.
The move will also affect supplies to the GAVI / WHO-backed global vaccine exchange facility COVAX, through which 64 low-income countries are supposed to receive doses of IBS, the program’s procurement and distribution partner told Reuters. , UNICEF.
“We understand that deliveries of COVID-19 vaccines to low-income economies participating in the installation of COVAX will likely face delays following a setback in obtaining export licenses for new doses of COVID-19 vaccines produced by the Serum Institute. of India (SII), it is expected to ship in March and April, ”UNICEF said in an email.
“COVAX is in discussions with the Government of India in order to ensure deliveries as quickly as possible.”
India’s Foreign Ministry and SII did not respond to requests for comment.
COVAX has received 17.7 million doses of AstraZeneca from IBS so far, out of the 60.5 million doses India has shipped in total, and many countries rely on the program to immunize their citizens.
There have been no vaccine exports from India since Thursday, the Foreign Ministry website shows, as the country expands its own immunization effort.
“Everything else has taken a back seat, at least for the moment,” said one of the sources. Both sources had direct knowledge of the matter, but declined to be identified as the discussions are not public.
“There are no exports, nothing until the situation in India stabilizes. The government will not be at such a great risk at a time when so many need vaccinations in India. “
SOME DELAYS ALREADY
The SII has already delayed shipments of the drug AstraZeneca to Brazil, Britain, Morocco and Saudi Arabia. The British authorities are in contact with New Delhi to request its second batch of 5 million doses from IBS.
COVAX has an agreement to purchase 1.1 billion doses of the AstraZeneca and Novavax injections that IBS is producing in bulk, primarily for low- and middle-income countries.
UNICEF in Vietnam said in a statement Wednesday that vaccine production problems had caused delays in deliveries to all countries that were to receive vaccines through COVAX.
UNICEF told Reuters that COVAX had informed participating countries that they would receive lower-than-expected volumes in March from the AstraZeneca-Oxford injection produced in South Korea.
“In line with the challenges of the current global supply environment, this is due to the challenges the company faces in rapidly increasing supply and optimizing production processes for these early deliveries,” he said.
AstraZeneca told COVAX that it would make up for the delayed volumes in April and May, UNICEF said.
The cabinet of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi decided this week to expand its vaccination campaign by including all people over the age of 45 as of April 1, and many states battling an increase in infections have required that all adults are covered.
With 11.7 million cases, India has reported the highest number of coronavirus infections after the United States and Brazil.
Currently, only the elderly and those over 45 with other health conditions are eligible for vaccinations in India. Frontline and healthcare workers were first in line when India kicked off its campaign in mid-January.
India has so far administered more than 52 million doses, of which 47 million are the local IBS version of the AstraZeneca vaccine. The rest is the COVAXIN vaccine developed in India by Bharat Biotech.
So far, the government has asked the SII to supply around 141 million doses. The company has also accounted for almost all of India’s vaccine exports.
The SII plans to increase monthly production to 100 million doses starting in April / May, up to 70 million now, Reuters reported earlier this month.
Report of Krishna N. Das; additional reports from Allasdair Pal, Euan Rocha and Neha Arora; edited by Barbara Lewis and Stephen Coates