New Delhi : India will resume exports of Covid-19 vaccines starting next month, government officials said on Monday, likely to aid developing countries, which restricted shipments amid a resurgence of cases at home in New Delhi. have struggled to vaccinate their population after
Exports will be a mix of donations and commercial deals, and will include shipments to Covax, a facility supported by the World Health Organization aimed at getting vaccines to developing countries. India has been a major supplier of Covax.
According to an Indian government official familiar with the plan, when it resumes exports, India will give priority to neighboring countries, Africa and Latin America. The official declined to say how many vaccines India is planning to export.
India exported 66 million doses to 95 countries before temporarily restricting shipments in early April to help ease supply shortages as Covid-19 cases rose sharply in the country last spring.
“It is our commitment to the world to collectively fight the pandemic. “We will now meet this with additional vaccine supplies. Our supplies are comfortable and the pace of local vaccinations has increased rapidly, leaving room for exports,” Federal Health Minister Mansukh Mandaviya told a press conference on Monday. “
The announcement comes ahead of a global COVID-19 summit President Biden will host on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly on Wednesday. US officials have been lobbying India in recent weeks to lift the export ban as vaccination rates in the country soared.
Resumption of exports will provide a welcome boost for Kovax.
Earlier this month, Covax said it would supply 1.4 billion doses for 2021; In June it expected to supply 1.9 billion doses for the full year. This cut the forecast partly due to export restrictions in India.
Earlier this month, Kovax said it no longer expected to receive 75 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine manufactured by the world’s largest vaccine maker, the Serum Institute of India, or SII. It also said that it now has to buy Novavax Inc. It is not expected to receive the 130 million doses of the vaccine it ordered from SII; The company has not yet applied for regulatory approval for the drug in any country. Covax relied heavily on SII to supply poor countries.
An SII spokesperson declined to comment on the Indian government’s decision to restart vaccine exports.
The coronavirus pandemic has taken a devastating human and economic toll on India, which initially struggled to scale up its vaccination program to protect its more than 1.3 billion people.
Since June, however, the pace of vaccination has reached an average of 7.4 million doses in September, reaching nearly two million doses in May, according to health ministry data.
A health ministry spokesman said that as of Monday, 65% of the country’s total eligible adult population had received at least one dose of the vaccine, while 22% had been fully vaccinated.
Local production of vaccines has increased in recent months, helped mainly by the easing of export restrictions in the US on the key raw material. India imports about two-thirds of the total raw materials needed to make vaccines such as specialty chemicals, single-use tubes, bags and filters from the US.
According to a company spokesperson, SII has increased its production from about 90 million doses per month in June and July to about 160 million in September. SII production is expected to increase to around 200 million doses in October.
Another Indian vaccine manufacturer Bharat Biotech International Limited has also increased its production.
The Indian government is hoping to procure around one billion doses between October and December through SII and domestic manufacturers including India. “Resuming exports is a right move by India as the country will have surplus supplies from mid-October. New Delhi-based epidemiologist and public health expert Chandrakant Laharia said, developing countries will benefit immensely.
The virus surge in the spring has left many Indians with some level of natural immunity. A study released in July by the Indian Council of Medical Research found that nearly two-thirds of the population had antibodies to the virus. But public health experts warn the country could be hit by another wave as natural immunity wanes in the coming months.
Indian officials have cautioned against mass gatherings during the festive season beginning in October. After reporting a peak of more than 400,000 cases a day in May, India has seen a significant drop in spread in the summer. The new cases so far this month have remained below the 50,000 mark.
Don’t miss a story! Stay connected and informed with Mint. Download our app now!!