India builds up Covid vaccine stocks as it readies to restart global shipments

Vials of Covishield on the production line at the Serum Institute | Photo via Bloomberg
Vials of Covishield on the production line at the Serum Institute | Photo via Bloomberg

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New Delhi: India is building up a stockpile of Covid vaccine doses with 250 million shots prepared and three more vaccines under development, a government official said on Wednesday, which will go some way to help the country meet its export commitments.

Most of these doses will be given to neighboring countries and will also meet India’s commitments to the World Health Organization’s Covax initiative for poorer nations, said V. K. Paul, a member of a government think-tank that advises Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

Covishield makes up the bulk of 250 million doses, while the rest are Covaxin, Paul said. Several more vaccines are under development and are likely to get statutory clearances by the end of the year, he said.

“India will play a significant role in providing vaccines to the world by 2022,” he told reporters.

The news comes as India is set to achieve its own milestone of one billion first vaccination doses next week, a government official told reporters earlier. About a fifth of the 1.49 billion population are fully inoculated, according to the Bloomberg Vaccine Tracker.

India last month said it would restart vaccine shipments in October, some six months after the government halted exports due to a second wave of infections. Local media reported that exports have already begun to Myanmar, Nepal and Bangladesh, which received one million doses each.

Iran had also obtained one million doses of Covaxin, the Indian Embassy in Tehran tweeted last week, signaling that Modi’s vaccine diplomacy is in full swing.

India agreed in September to restart exports just before Modi embarked a visit to the U.S., which included a face-to-face meeting with the Quad group that is also made up of Australia, U.S. and Japan. Modi told his counterparts that eight million doses of Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine would available by end-October under the partnership.

The Quad countries will pay for the vaccine and India would bear a certain part of the cost, Modi said during that meeting in Washington.

Here are some other details from Paul’s briefing with reporters in New Delhi:

  • Third wave of infections unlikely in India, according to three studies.
  • Government is keep a close watch on any new wave of cases and has ramped up facilities, including paediatrics.
  • The science behind booster shots is imperfect and there is no clear picture yet.-Bloomberg

Also read: India among 50% countries where classes are yet to go fully in-person: Unicef-backed study


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