COVID-19 vaccine supply to WHO's global sharing network COVAX is being delayed by India.
New Delhi, India: Two sources told Reuters on Tuesday (October 19) that India has postponed committing vaccine supplies to the COVAX global sharing network, a day after one of its primary backers, the WHO, said the agency could not "cut corners" to approve a locally made vaccine.
For the first time since April, the world's largest vaccine manufacturer resumed exports of COVID-19 doses this month. It has shipped approximately 4 million to countries like Bangladesh and Iran, but none to COVAX.
The World Health Organization (WHO) said on Monday that it could not "cut corners" in the approval decision for Covaxin, India's first domestically made COIVD-19 vaccine, ahead of a meeting on Oct. 26.
Despite the health minister's vow last month to satisfy the commitment to COVAX and others during the quarter ending in December, one of the sources said it was "frustrating" because India has yet to confirm any delivery to COVAX.
Sources knowledgeable on the export talks declined to be identified because they were not authorized to comment on the matter.
COVAX and countries like Bangladesh have signed contracts with the Serum Institute of India (SII), the world's largest vaccine maker, to supply hundreds of millions of doses of a licensed version of the AstraZeneca vaccine.
Its vaccine production has more than tripled since April, reaching 220 million doses per month. Requests for comment from India's health ministry, SII and COVAX co-leads, the WHO, and GAVI went unanswered.
Inoculation programs in many African countries that rely on COVAX for vaccination supplies could be disrupted if supplies to COVAX are delayed.
Officials from the Indian government have expressed confidence that the WHO will approve an emergency-use listing for
Covaxin accounts for 11% of the 990 million vaccine doses administered in India, with the rest coming primarily from AstraZeneca.
SII's chief executive, Adar Poonawalla, told the Telegraph newspaper a few weeks ago that his company would resume exports to COVAX in October.
"Initially, these shipments will be minimal," he explained, "but by January 2022, once we have satisfied local need... significant volumes will be sent to COVAX."
India donated or sold around 66 million COVID-19 doses, including Covaxin, before halting international vaccination exports in April to meet domestic demand.