Exclusive: India Delays Large AstraZeneca Shot Exports As Infections Rise, Sources Say


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.

FILE PHOTO: Boxes of some of the first 500,000 of the 2 million doses of AstraZeneca coronavirus disease (COVID-19) vaccine that Canada has secured through an agreement with the Serum Institute of India in partnership with Verity Pharma at a facility in Milton, Ontario, Canada March 3, 2021. REUTERS / Carlos Osorio / File Photo

The move will also affect supplies to the GAVI / WHO-backed COVAX vaccine exchange facility through which more than 180 countries are expected to receive doses, one of the sources said.

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 here 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. “

India’s Foreign Ministry and SII did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

THERE ARE ALREADY SOME DELAYS The SII has already delayed shipments of the drug AstraZeneca to Brazil, Britain, Morocco and Saudi Arabia.

UNICEF, the UN agency for children that is purchasing and distributing vaccines for COVAX, had no comment.

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.

He did not specify the origin of those delays, although Vietnam was not expected to receive doses of IBS.

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 51 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

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