Workers unload a pickup van that carries Covishield vaccines which arrived from India in Dhaka, Bangladesh January 21, 2021. Photo: REUTERS/Mohammad Ponir Hossain
New Delhi: With the government reducing the age limit on COVID-19 vaccination to 45 years, India is likely to put a brake on expanding vaccine exports for the next two months.
On Tuesday, the Union cabinet decided that all people above 45 years of age can get a COVID-19 vaccine from April 1. The announcement came in the backdrop of a second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic hitting several parts of the country.
A day later, highly-placed sources said on Wednesday that the Indian government has also decided that it will not be “expanding” the export of vaccines over the next couple of months.
All the pending orders will get delivered, but new inquiries will not be accepted for several months. It is being done to allow India to have adequate supplies to cope with the expansion in the domestic vaccination programme, amid the surge in cases.
Sources added that an assessment of the export policy would be done after two to three months about whether to restart taking new orders.
There had been earlier reports that Serum Institute of India (SII), the world’s largest vaccine manufacturer by volume, has informed Brazil, Saudi Arabia and Morocco that further supplies of the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine will be delayed due to surging demand at home and as it works through a capacity expansion.
Meanwhile, SII has sought permission from the Centre to supply 50 lakh doses of the Oxford COVID-19 vaccine candidate Covishield to the UK, citing an agreement with AstraZeneca in this regard.
India recorded 47,262 new COVID-19 cases in the last 24 hours, which is the highest single-day rise in 2021. The total number of active cases rose to 1.17 crore cases, which marks an increase in the active caseload for the 14th consecutive day.
The Indian health ministry also announced on Wednesday that it has detected a new “double mutant variant” of the novel coronavirus.
Genome sequencing and analysis of samples from Maharashtra state found mutations in the virus that do not match previously catalogued “variants of concern” (VOC), the ministry said in a statement.
As The Wire Science had reported, India had initially planned to vaccinate 300 million people by July 2021. This seems uncertain due to the limited supply of vaccines and vaccine hesitancy related to the questions over the drug regulator’s approval of Covaxin in January.
According to the Union health ministry, it had delivered around 50.8 million vaccine doses as of 10 am on March 24. Based on the numbers from the government’s Co-win platform, The Hindu reported that until March 23, 44 million Covishield doses and 4.2 million Covaxin doses had been delivered.
According to the dashboard on the government’s Co-Win platform, India has administered 5.20 crore vaccine doses from January 16 to March 24.
India has sent out six crore doses of COVID-19 vaccine, out of which more than half, around 3.41 crore, were exported commercially. Another 1.77 crore doses of coronavirus vaccine were distributed overseas through the WHO’s COVAX facility. India has also donated 85 lakh doses to developing countries in South Asia, Africa and the Caribbean.