25 Mar 2021: Amid growing cases, India temporarily halts export of AstraZeneca's vaccine
Facing a sudden spike in coronavirus cases, India has halted the export of the AstraZeneca vaccine for now, Reuters reported quoting two sources. Millions of doses of the vaccine are being manufactured by the Pune-based Serum Institute of India (SII), the world's biggest vaccine-maker.
This decision will also impact the World Health Organization's initiative, COVAX, meant to support poorer nations.
Here are more details.
Numbers: India has so far exported 60.5 million doses
SII has till now exported 17.7 million of AstraZeneca doses for the COVAX initiative; India has shipped 60.5 million doses in total.
But there have been no exports since Thursday, the report added. The shipments to Brazil, Britain, Morocco, and Saudi Arabia have already been delayed by SII.
"Everything else has taken a backseat, for the time being at least," one source said.
Fact: Government is unwilling to take a chance
"No exports, nothing till the time the India situation stabilizes. The government won't take such a big chance at the moment when so many need to be vaccinated in India, (sic)" the person added.
Drive: India began its inoculation drive in January with 'corona warriors'
India had kicked off its vaccination drive in January with the AstraZeneca shot (known as Covishield locally) and COVAXIN, developed by Bharat Biotech. The inoculation drive focused on corona warriors initially and was later expanded to include those above 60 and those between 45 and 59, having co-morbidities.
From April 1, everyone above 45 can be vaccinated.
So far, 5,31,45,709 have been inoculated.
Decision: The situation will be reviewed after 2-3 months
India is now focusing on the domestic vaccination drive. Hence, April's entire production of 60 million doses will be given to the government by SII.
A person privy to the development told PTI, "There will be no expansion of exports for the next few months. The situation will be reviewed after around 2-3 months as we are focusing on ramping up vaccine production."
UNICEF's statement: We understand deliveries to lower-income countries will suffer, said UNICEF
UNICEF, the United Nation's agency distributing vaccines for COVAX, spoke about the setback.
"We understand that deliveries of COVID-19 vaccines to lower-income economies participating in the COVAX facility will likely face delays following a setback in securing export licenses for further doses of COVID-19 vaccines produced by the Serum Institute of India (SII), expected to be shipped in March and April," it said.