India hopes to resume vaccine exports

NEW DELHI (AP) – India, the world’s largest manufacturer of vaccines, wants to resume exports of coronavirus doses but can’t do so until its domestic needs are met, the head of the country’s COVID-19 task force said.

“Once our immediate need of vaccinating a significant proportion of Indian people is achieved and vaccine stockpiles are visible from multiple sources, we would then like to play the role of serving others and providing vaccines to them,” Dr Vinod K. Paul said in an interview with The Associated Press.

Paul defended the Indian government’s move to restrict vaccine exports in April as it battled a ferocious surge in infections.

He noted that India had given away a “substantial” amount of vaccines at the start of the year as it launched its own immunisation drive. “So that has to be respected and has to be recognised, as not many nations have done that,” he said.

From January, India began exporting vaccines to more than 90 countries.

But the exports stopped when infections soared in India, leaving many developing countries without adequate supplies and affecting millions of people.

As critics accused India of mismanaging its sluggish vaccination efforts at home, countries such as Nepal and Bangladesh began looking toward China to fill their vaccine shortfalls.

The Serum Institute of India, the world’s largest vaccine maker, also abandoned its role as the main supplier to COVAX, the UN-backed project to supply vaccines to poor regions of the world.

A woman gets a dose of Covishield during a drive through vaccination in Ahmedabad, India. PHOTO: AP