AFP/Reuters/ New Delhi
India has resumed a small amount of exports of Covid-19 vaccines and will increase exports significantly in the next few months as domestic stocks build up and most of its own large population is inoculated, officials said yesterday.
One million shots of Covaxin produced by Indian company Bharat Biotech were shipped to Iran last week, the Indian embassy in Tehran said.
Vaccines have also been sent to Nepal, a government source said, adding that the effort is focused on neighbouring nations.
Meanwhile, the government’s chief Covid-19 adviser said India currently has no plans to give booster doses as some nations have begun doing. India has neared the milestone of 1bn vaccine injections.
Doctor Vinod K Paul said that with the country’s vaccine makers ramping up production and domestic needs diminishing, India should be able to resume being a major exporter of jabs from next year. More than 15 countries worldwide have begun issuing third doses of coronavirus vaccines to older citizens, including in Israel and in European Union nations such as France, Italy and Germany.
But Paul, part of the Indian government’s advisory body NITI Aayog, said there is no clear guidance on whether a third dose is necessary, including from the World Health Organisation.
“As of now we do not have a recommendation for a booster bump-up dose,” Paul told reporters, adding however that the government would “continue to watch this space very carefully”.
His comments came with the number of vaccine doses administered in India set to hit 1bn in the coming days, with some 75% of those eligible receiving one shot and around 30% double vaccinated. India is the world’s largest vaccine producer but the country halted exports of Covid jabs earlier this year to focus on its domestic needs after a devastating infections surge overwhelmed hospitals.
But with vaccination rates now high and coronavirus cases down sharply, exports have resumed in recent days, with a total of around 4mn doses reportedly being sent to Nepal, Bangladesh, Myanmar and Iran.
Production of Covishield — the Indian-made version of the AstraZeneca vaccine — and the homegrown Covaxin is currently around 250mn shots per month and is on course to reach 270mn soon, according to officials.
Combined with the production of other vaccines made in India — including Johnson & Johnson with local partner Biological E — coming on line, the country could begin exporting again on a large scale next year.
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