India considers resumption of Covid-19 vaccine exports

India is considering resumption of Covid-19 vaccine exports, mainly to Africa, after spending time on domestic vaccination supplies.

The resumption of vaccine exports comes ahead of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Washington next week, during which the vaccine could be discussed at a summit with Quad leaders, including the United States, Japan, and the United States. India and Australia, according to a source with knowledge of the matter.

“The export decision has been discussed,” the source said, speaking on condition of anonymity. “India wants to help Africa with both its vaccine and its Covid-19 response model.”

India’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs has not yet responded to a request for comment.

A person holds a vial of the Covishield vaccine, the Indian version of AstraZeneca, in Accra, Ghana in February. Photo: Reuters.

A person holds a vial of the Covishield vaccine, the Indian version of AstraZeneca, in Accra, Ghana in February. Photo: Reuters.

India, the world’s largest vaccine producer, halted exports in April to focus on a domestic vaccination campaign as the country faced a severe outbreak. The government wants to vaccinate all 944 million of the adult population by December, and 61% of them have had at least one dose.

On September 13, a senior official of the Indian Ministry of Foreign Affairs had a meeting with the head of the World Health Organization (WHO). A day later, WHO said it was in constant communication with Indian authorities to resume the supply of vaccine for Covax.

“We are assured that supply will resume this year,” said Bruce Aylward, WHO official. “We hope to be assured sooner in the coming weeks.”

Before stopping exports, India donated and sold 66 million doses of vaccines to nearly 100 countries.

India’s vaccination rate skyrocketed last month, when the world’s largest vaccine maker, the Serum Institute of India, doubled production to 150 million doses per month.

The African Union on Wednesday accused manufacturers of not giving them a fair chance to buy vaccines, and called on producing countries, especially India, to lift export restrictions. Of the 5.7 billion doses of vaccines administered globally, less than 2% belong to Africa.

Thanh Tam (Follow Reuters)

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