India resumes vaccine exports

Myanmar, Bangladesh, Nepal and Iran have been the first recipients of resumed vaccine exports from India almost eight months after they were halted due to rising cases of Covid.

The Centre had stopped vaccine exports as the brutal second wave hit India in April-May this year. Its only after India had administered close to a billion doses of vaccines did the government relax restrictions. Commercial contracts were also kept in abeyance as production was procured for domestic use. India resumed its exports to the Covax facility with the first lot of doses landing in African countries. Adar Poonawalla, chief of Serum Institute of India, was quoted by Axios news website as saying that by this week, he expected Covishield doses to land in African countries.

"I think by the tenth of November you're gonna see the first — if not a bit sooner — you're gonna see the first doses arrive in Africa," Poonawalla told Axios. Once shipments begin, Poonawalla said around 30 million doses per month could be supplied to COVAX.

India now has a long list of vaccines—Covavax, Corbevax, ZyCovD, Gennova’s mRNA vaccine—at various stages of regulatory approval. The first 50 million doses of SII-produced Covavax will make its way to Indonesia this week though the vaccine is yet to be greenlighted by India’s DCGI, the WHO or the US FDA.

While the government is focusing on getting more Indians covered by the second jab, it’s clear that supplies are no longer a constraint. Vaccine manufacturers are chomping at the bit, because they need to go out to the world with their exports.

However, there remain fears about a third wave and a repeat of the shortages faced during the second wave as well as uncertainties about production volumes and timelines of manufacturers. Here, government sources say they were hobbled by the slow rollout of Covaxin by Bharat Biotech.

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