Despite being one of the leading manufacturers of COVID-19 vaccines, India has delayed committing its supplies to the World Health Organization-backed COVAX global sharing effort, claimed two sources to Reuters. India’s delayed supply to COVAX would affect the inoculation drives in several nations like the African countries, who entirely depend on the WHO and agencies backed by it for vaccines.
India has just recently resumed export of its vaccines and has exported 4 million vaccine doses to neighbouring countries like Bangladesh and Iran. The country has made no commitment regarding export to COVAX. Stating that India’s cold shoulder towards vaccine supply is “frustrating”, one of the sources noted that India is yet to confirm any support despite assurance from the health minister last month.
COVAX co-lead Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, said, “We are still waiting for confirmation on when and how many doses we can expect when exports do resume, and are not aware of any specific delay.” Gavi added that the Indian vaccines have a major role to play in containing the spread of the novel virus worldwide.
The Serum Institute of India (SII) – world’s largest manufacturer of vaccines – took the contract to supply millions of doses of a version of the AstraZeneca (AZN.L) to COVAX and neighbouring countries of India. Though the institute has tripled its output since April 2021 to reach 220 million doses a month, its supply to COVAX is still awaited. SII CEO Adar Poonawalla had earlier assured that the company will resume export to COVAX in October.
Earlier on Monday, the WHO sought additional data from Bharat Biotech to consider its request to list its vaccine under emergency-use. WHO said it could not “cut corners” to approve a domestically developed vaccine. It shared on Twitter, “We are aware that many people are waiting for WHO’s recommendation for Covaxin to be included in the COVID19 Emergency Use Listing, but we cannot cut corners.” The organisation further added, “Before recommending a product for emergency use, we must evaluate it thoroughly to make sure it is safe and effective.”
Bharat Biotech is the key developer of Covaxin, which was given emergency use authorisation in India in January this year. Covaxin accounts for 11 percent of the total vaccines administered within the country. Without the WHO’s authorisation Covaxin cannot be accepted as valid outside India and will largely affect the travel ability of several Indians inoculated with it.
Stating that the WHO eyes to “have a broad portfolio of vaccines approved for emergency use & to expand access to populations everywhere,” WHO Chief scientist Soumya Swaminathan asserted that the WHO technical advisory will decide on Covaxin’s official viability during their meet on October 26.