INDIA – After a seven-month break, India, one of the world’s largest Covid-19 vaccine manufacturers, has resumed bilateral vaccine exports after two-thirds of its adult population has received their first dose.
Over the last week, Delhi has exported approximately four million doses of domestically manufactured vaccines to Iran, Bangladesh, Nepal, and Myanmar – all developing countries suffering from vaccine shortages.
Last month, Union Health Minister Mansukh Mandaviya announced that India will resume the supplies abroad, an it has rolled out the vaccine export program by giving preference to the neighbouring countries.
“Prime Minister Narendra Modi said recently at the UN General Assembly that India will resume supply of coronavirus vaccines. We have decided to start with the neighbourhood,” Bagchi said.
Bagchi said the decision on further supplies will be based on India’s production and demand. “We will decide on further supplies based on our production and demand,” he said
Initially, India pursued a soft power policy of vaccine diplomacy in early 2021 to counter China’s growing regional influence.
It had exported around 60 million doses to other South Asian countries and the World Health Organization’s vaccine sharing program, Covax, until a ban was imposed in March following a sudden increase in infections to focus on inoculating its own population.
It was prudent that the government vaccinates as many people as possible at home. In the months that followed, India increased vaccine production and accelerated its vaccination campaign. More than two-thirds of Indian adults have now had their first dose.
Public pressure was also mounting on the Indian government to scale up its faltering vaccination program, which had been plagued by production and logistical delays at first, rather than score political points internationally.
Vaccine production in India, on the other hand, has increased dramatically since the spring. This is largely due to the Serum Institute of India (SII), which manufactures the AstraZeneca/Oxford University ‘Covishield’ vaccine on a monthly scale of 200 million doses.
While exports are expected to resume gradually in October, they are expected to increase significantly by January.
The Indian government anticipates that domestic monthly dose production will increase to 300-320 million in January as other locally developed vaccines receive regulatory approval.
Currently, India is administering an average of 210 million doses each month and so this expected surplus can be exported.
“As India’s needs are met, going forward there will be a generous stockpile of vaccines,” said VK Paul, head of Indian government’s task force on Covid-19.
“A huge, huge availability of vaccines can be visualised for next year, we expect vaccines made in India to play a significant role in dealing with the pandemic across the world,” he added.
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