India has put a temporary hold on all major exports of the AstraZeneca Coronavirus vaccine made by Serum Institute of India (SII), the world’s biggest vaccine-maker, to meet domestic demand as infections rise, multiple sources confirmed.
A person close to the development said that in the light of the rising demand for Covid-19 vaccines, the health ministry has conveyed to SII that it should prioritize deliveries to the government of India over export commitments. The entire production of 60 million doses in April will be supplied to the government.
India is, however, not officially banning Covid-19 vaccine exports. “This is a temporary move until the supply situation stabilises in the country,” said the person.
Covid vaccine inventories have hit a low at places like Mumbai, and the government is speeding up the procurement.
SII has supplied 65 million doses to the Indian government and has exported a similar amount so far. It has an order book of 100 million doses for the GoI. SII will need the nod from the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) before it exports now.
The move will also affect supplies to the GAVI/WHO-backed COVAX vaccine-sharing facility through which more than 180 countries are expected to get doses, one of the sources said.
COVAX has so far received 17.7 million AstraZeneca doses from SII, of the 60.5 million doses India has shipped in total, and many countries are relying on the programme to immunize their citizens.
There have been no vaccine exports from India since Thursday, the foreign ministry’s website showed, as the country expands its own immunisation effort.
“Everything else has taken a backseat, for the time being at least,” said a source. “No exports, nothing till the time the India situation stabilises. The government won’t take such a big chance at the moment when so many need to be vaccinated in India.”
The foreign ministry and SII did not immediately reply to requests for comment.
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