India is delaying export licences for COVID-19 vaccines to be sent to poor countries under the Covax facility with surge in domestic demand, according to facility co-leader Gavi. Pune-based Serum Institute of India (SII) had tied up with the Covax scheme for supplying the AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccine to low-income nations.
However, vaccine shipments for rest of March and April are being delayed now as demand for the AstraZeneca shot has grown in India.
"Deliveries of COVID-19 vaccines produced by the Serum Institute of India (SII) to lower-income economies participating in the Covax Facility will face delays during March and April as the Government of India battles a new wave of COVID-19 infections. Covax and the Government of India remain in discussions to ensure some supplies are completed during March and April," a Gavi said.
SII is manufacturing COVID-19 vaccines for India as well as 64 low-income countries. The vaccines produced by the company are to be delivered via Covax facility to these nations.
However, deliveries to the low-income nations were delayed after a setback in securing export licences for doses of AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine produced by SII and expected to be shipped in March and April.
"According to the agreement between Gavi and the Serum Institute of India (SII), which included funding to support an increase in manufacturing capacity, SII is contracted to provide Covax with the SII-licensed and manufactured AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccine (known as Covishield) to 64 lower-income economies participating in the Gavi Covax AMC (including India), alongside its commitments to the Government of India," Gavi further said.
The Covax scheme, or COVID-19 Vaccines Global Access, is an initiative by UNICEF, Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, the World Health Organization (WHO), the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations, and others. It is meant to ensure that residents of 92 of the poorest countries in the world can access COVID-19 vaccines, with the costs being covered by donors.
To date, COVAX has been supplied with 28 million Covishield doses and was expecting an additional 40 million doses to be available in March, and up to 50 million doses in April. Covax has notified all affected economies of potential delays. SII has pledged that, alongside supplying India, it will prioritise the Covax multilateral solution for equitable distribution, Gavi said.
Meanwhile, government sources told BusinessToday.In that so far, more than 60 million doses of Made in India vaccines have been supplied to over 75 countries, including through Covax. India remains committed to supply COVID-19 vaccines to partner countries over the coming weeks and months in a phased manner keeping in view the domestic requirements of the phased rollout, they further said.
"We remain committed to help the world with vaccines, including through Covax Facility. Given our current manufacturing capacity and requirements of national vaccination programmes, there may be a need to calibrate the supply schedules from time to time. All stakeholders would have to work together to adjust the schedules as required. Only by such cooperation, we can collectively deal with the ongoing pandemic," the sources said.