INDIA – Indian government officials have announced that the nation will resume COVID-19 vaccines exports next month, a move likely to help developing nations that have struggled to vaccinate their populations after the Asian nation halted overseas shipments.
India’s health minister Mansukh Mandaviya, said that the vaccines production will likely increase in the coming weeks and would help fulfill the nations commitment to COVAX- a United Nations-backed vaccine sharing initiative.
He said that India will produce over 300 million vaccine doses in October and hit a target of at least one billion in the final quarter of 2021.
The decision to resume exports comes five months after a devastating wave of infections swept across India due to the emergence of a deadly Delta (B1617.2) variant that prompted the country to focus its vaccine-production capacity on its domestic needs.
At that time India began to expand vaccine coverage to all adults in the country, and the country’s total caseload stood at 318,000 when the minister pronounced the decision, the lowest in approximately six months, according to official data.
However, the minister did not specify which vaccines or the quantity of doses India would supply to COVAX, the vaccine pillar within the Access to COVID-19 Tools (ACT) Accelerator. So far, COVAX has delivered about 100 million doses to a total of over 130 countries courtesy of donations from US and other G7 countries.
Following India’s announcement to resume exports, COVAX might be able to overcome the recently announced shortfall in vaccine distribution. India was initially expected to be the main vaccine supplier for the COVAX initiative, and its export ban dealt a big blow to the Program.
India’s announcement comes amid renewed vaccine sharing push. Later this week in connection with the United Nations (UN) General Assembly meeting, world leaders will focus on vaccine access issues and also discuss steps to better prepare for the next pandemic.
US President, Joe Biden is expected to host a virtual COVID summit on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly. The objective is to solicit support from governments, industries, and philanthropists and increase vaccine supply.
Additionally, the Summit will focus on establishment of sustainable financing for responding to emerging health threats and rally participants around the goal of vaccinating 70% of the global population by mid-September 2022.
India is leading the pack and has done appreciably well in its domestic vaccine campaign, with over 60% of adults having received at least a dose of the inoculation. The government says it expects to finish inoculating all 944 million adults in the country by December.
“With a fast-moving pandemic, no-one is safe until everyone is made safe by vaccination,” says the World Health Organization.
Middle and low-income nations scrambled to keep their COVID-19 vaccinations on course after India temporarily halted vaccine exports, thus, resumption of vaccine exports will help close the gap that has resulted in developing countries lagging behind in the fight against the pandemic.