NEW DELHI (Reuters) -The GAVI vaccine alliance hopes the Serum Institute of India (SII) will resume exports of the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine from this quarter, it told Reuters, earlier than the firm’s forecast of the end of this year.
GAVI co-leads the COVAX facility for equitable distribution of COVID-19 shots around the world. COVAX suffered a big jolt in April when big vaccine producer India stopped all overseas shipments to meet local demand as infections rose dramatically.
India’s coronavirus crisis has now eased and output of the AstraZeneca drug at SII, the world’s biggest vaccine maker, has also jumped, but so has domestic demand.
“We remain hopeful that SII deliveries will resume in the third quarter, however, this cannot be confirmed at this stage,” a GAVI spokesperson said in an e-mail late on Tuesday.
“In the meantime, COVAX has been aggressively following through on its strategy of diversifying its portfolio, securing over a billion additional doses in the past month alone either through direct procurements or through dose sharing.”
An Indian government source said a decision on exports might be made next month when the country’s COVID-19 vaccine output is expected to rise further.
SII did not immediately respond to a request for comment. A source close to SII said the company was focused on supplying to India for now. It said https://twitter.com/SerumInstIndia/status/1394652001573629958/photo/1 in May that it hoped to “start delivering to COVAX and other countries by the end of this year”.
India’s foreign ministry did not immediately respond to queries from Reuters.
Bangladesh’s health minister told reporters on Tuesday that SII could restart supplies to it from August. The country is suffering from a resurgence in infections and has received only 7 million doses out of 30 million it has ordered from the company.
India has so far administered https://dashboard.cowin.gov.in 358.1 million vaccine doses – the most in the world after China – giving at least one dose to 31% of its estimated adult population of 944 million.
(Reporting by Krishna N. Das; Editing by Raju Gopalakrishnan and Kim Coghill)