India is blocking exports of AstraZeneca vaccines to use for itself, disrupting vaccine rollouts in other countries

Marianne Guenot
·2 min read
India covid 19 vaccine December 2020.JPG
A man applies finishing touches to graffiti representing a vaccine in Kolkata, India. Rupak De Chowdhuri/Reuters
  • India blocked exports of AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine made there, perhaps for months.

  • It is likely to disrupt the rollout of vaccine to poorer countries via the COVAX scheme.

  • India's biggest vaccine-maker also delayed recent batches meant for the UK and Brazil.

  • See more stories on Insider's business page.

India has blocked all major exports of the AstraZeneca vaccine to boost domestic supply, the latest move by a country to stop doses from leaving its borders.

This could disrupt the rollout of vaccines to poorer countries via the COVAX scheme, which had been counting on Indian-made doses.

The Serum Institute of India is a major provider of vaccines to COVAX, the WHO-backed initiative aimed at fair distribution of the vaccine to poorer countries.

The Institute said that it was told to halt all exports of the vaccine, in a move that could last "two to three months," the Financial Times reported on Thursday.

Reuters reported that India will also likely delay delivery of the doses expected by COVAX for March and April "following a setback in securing export licenses," according to an email from UNICEF.

The Serum Institute of India has promised 200 million doses to COVAX, half of which are the AstraZeneca vaccine, but for now has only dispatched 17.7 million, the BBC reported on Thursday.

The move is "due to the increased demand of Covid-19 vaccines in India," a spokesperson for Gavi, The Vaccine Alliance, told AFP.

This news comes as India is seeing a sharp increase in COVID-19 cases and is ramping up its vaccination rollout.

The government announced on Tuesday that it would expand vaccination to everyone over the age of 45 from April 1.

Covishield, India's local name for the AstraZeneca vaccine, is one of two vaccines approved in the country. The other is Covaxin, which is manufacturers by Bharat Biotech.

The Serum Institute of India is the world's largest vaccine manufacturer, and produces both Covishield and the Novovax vaccine.

India has exported over 60 million doses of vaccine to 76 countries, most of which are AstraZeneca vaccine, the BBC reported.

It has also promised more than 900 million doses of the vaccine in bilateral commercial deals, the BBC reported.

The move prompts questions about potential supply issues.

The Serum Institute of India has recently delayed delivery of 5 million doses of AstraZeneca doses meant for the UK.

Brazil, Saudi Arabia, and Morocco were also told to expect delays, the Times of India reported on Sunday due to a fire in a manufacturing facility in January.

The Serum Institute of India and the WHO have previously warned that manufacturers of COVID-19 vaccines face a shortage of raw materials essential for vaccine manufacturing, in part due to a US ban on export of some products.

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