Indian rules delay global jab distribution

·2-min read

Export restrictions in India are causing significant delays in the worldwide distribution of coronavirus vaccines.

The World Health Organisation's COVAX initiative was expecting that deliveries scheduled for March and April would not arrive as planned, a spokeswoman for the Gavi alliance - a public-private vaccine program that coordinates the project - said in Geneva on Thursday.

India is one of the designated main suppliers for COVAX, an international vaccine-sharing program which plans to deliver a total of 237 million vaccine doses between March and May, with more than 100 million doses to be produced by India's Serum Institute.

The delays are said to affect millions of doses.

UNICEF confirmed the expected delays in deliveries, but didn't specify the amount.

"Delays in granting further export licences for Serum Institute of India (SII)-produced COVID-19 vaccine doses are due to the increased demand of COVID-19 vaccines in India," the Gavi spokeswoman said.

"SII has pledged that, alongside supplying India, it will prioritise the COVAX multilateral solution for equitable distribution. COVAX is in talks with the government of India with a view to ensuring deliveries as quickly as possible," she added.

According to the Indian government, about 18 million doses produced in the country have been delivered to COVAX while another 40 million doses were sold at low prices or donated abroad.

A further 50 million doses were administered in India itself.

The country of 1.3 billion is currently facing a surge in infections, seen by experts as an emerging second wave of the virus.

A government source told Reuters on Thursday India had not imposed a ban on coronavirus vaccine exports.

"We had stated that keeping in view the domestic requirements of the phased roll out, India will continue to supply COVID-19 vaccines to partner countries over the coming weeks and months in a phased manner," the source said.

"This position remains unchanged. We have not imposed any ban on exports of vaccines, unlike many other countries," the source said.