India has delayed committing vaccine supplies to the global sharing platform COVAX, two sources told Reuters on Tuesday, a day after one of its main backers, the World Health Organization, said the agency could not “cut corners” to approve a home-grown vaccine. The world’s largest vaccine maker resumed exporting COVID-19 doses this month for the first time since April, sending about 4 million to neighboring countries like Bangladesh and Iran, but none to COVAX.
On Monday, in the run-up to the October 26 meeting on Covaxin, India’s first home-grown COIVD-19 vaccine, the World Health Organization (WHO) said it could not “cut corners” in the approval decision.
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One source said it was “disappointing” that India had yet to confirm any supplies of COVAX, despite a promise last month by the health minister to meet COVAX and other commitments during the quarter to December.
The sources, who were briefed on the export talks, declined to be identified because they were not authorized to speak on the matter.
The Serum Institute of India (SII), the world’s largest vaccine maker, has contracts to supply hundreds of millions of doses of a licensed version of the AstraZeneca vaccine to COVAX and countries like Bangladesh.
Its vaccine production has more than tripled since April, to 220 million monthly doses now.
India’s Ministry of Health, the Strategic Impact Survey (SII) and COVAX, which are the World Health Organization and the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization, did not respond to requests for comment.
Delayed supplies of COVAX could disrupt vaccination campaigns in many African countries that depend on them for vaccine supplies.
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Indian government officials said they are confident the World Health Organization will soon approve the emergency-use list for Covaxin, which makes up 11% of the 990 million vaccine doses given in India, with the remainder mostly from AstraZeneca.
A few weeks ago, Adar Poonawala, CEO of SII, told the Telegraph that his company would resume exporting to COVAX in October.
“At first these supplies will be small, but by January 2022, as soon as we meet the local demands … we will see large quantities go to COVAX,” he added.
Before India halted shipments of vaccine abroad in April to meet domestic demand, it had donated or sold more than 66 million doses of coronavirus, including Covaxin.