India to resume COVID vaccine exports to COVAX, neighbours

The health minister says government will prioritise the global vaccine-sharing platform and India’s neighbouring countries.

India donated or sold 66 million doses to nearly 100 countries before the export halt [Illustration by Dado Ruvic/Reuters]

India will resume exports of COVID-19 vaccines from the next quarter, prioritising the global vaccine-sharing platform COVAX and neighbouring countries first as supplies rise, according to the health minister.

India, the world’s biggest maker of vaccines, stopped exports of COVID shots in April to focus on inoculating its own population as infections exploded.

The country’s monthly vaccine output has since more than doubled and is set to quadruple to more than 300 million doses next month, Health Minister Mansukh Mandaviya said, adding that only excess supplies would be exported.

“We will help other countries and also fulfil our responsibility towards COVAX,” he told reporters on Monday.

Media reports last week said India was considering restarting exports of COVID-19 vaccines soon. It donated or sold 66 million doses to nearly 100 countries before the export halt.

The announcement on resumption of exports comes before Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to the United States this week where vaccines are likely to be discussed at a summit of the leaders of the Quad countries – the US, India, Japan and Australia.

India wants to vaccinate all its 944 million adults by December and has so far given at least one dose to 64 percent of them and two doses to 22 percent.

India’s inoculations have jumped since last month, especially as the world’s biggest vaccine maker, the Serum Institute of India, has more than trebled its output of the AstraZeneca shot to 200 million doses a month from April levels.

Indian companies have set up the capacity to produce nearly three billion COVID vaccine doses a year.

On Monday, India reported 30,256 new COVID-19 infections and 295 deaths, taking the total caseload to 33.48 million and the death toll to 445,133.

Source: Reuters