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After 6-month pause, India resumes covid vaccine  exports

A health worker prepares to administer a dose of Covaxin during a vaccination drive against COVID-19 in New Delhi, India, Wednesday, Sept. 29, 2021. India, the world’s largest vaccine producer, will resume exports and donations of surplus coronavirus vaccines in October after halting them during a devastating surge in domestic infections in April. (AP Photo/Altaf Qadri) (AP)Premium
A health worker prepares to administer a dose of Covaxin during a vaccination drive against COVID-19 in New Delhi, India, Wednesday, Sept. 29, 2021. India, the world’s largest vaccine producer, will resume exports and donations of surplus coronavirus vaccines in October after halting them during a devastating surge in domestic infections in April. (AP Photo/Altaf Qadri) (AP)

  • Iran was one of the first countries to get one million doses of Covaxin vaccines on Saturday

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NEW DELHI : India has restarted exporting covid-19 vaccines, albeit in a limited way, with the first consignments going to Iran, Bangladesh, Nepal and Myanmar, officials said on Sunday.

The resumption comes after a gap of almost six months, one of two officials cited above said adding that the vaccines sent was partly donation besides on commercial basis.

Iran was one of the first countries to get one million doses of Covaxin vaccines on Saturday, manufactured by the Hyderabad based Bharat Biotech. Covaxin is currently awaiting World Health Organisation (WHO) recognition as one of the vaccines that can be conferred emergency use listing status. Consignments for other countries are in the process of being sent, the first official said.

 

According to the second official cited above, the easing of covid-19 cases in India – 18,166 new infections were reported on Saturday down from a peak of 400,000 daily new infections in the middle of the second wave – the Modi government is looking at resumption of vaccine exports. “Prime Minister (Narendra Modi) made the announcement during his speech at the UN General Assembly (on 25 September) that India is ready to restart sending covid-19 vaccines to countries that need them," the second official said.

 

The subject of India resuming vaccine imports had also figured in Modi’s meeting with US president Joe Biden when the two met in Washington on 24 September. This was something that Biden appreciated, Indian foreign secretary Harsh Shringla told reporters in Washington after the Biden-Modi talks.

 

India had begun its domestic vaccination programme in January following which it started sending out doses of vaccines as grants and commercial exports to 95 countries between January and April this year. In all India had sent out more than 66 million vaccine doses when the country was hit by a brutal second wave of covid-19 infections fuelled by the more infectious Delta variant of the corona virus that was first detected in China in late 2019. This made it necessary for authorities to stop exports and focus manufacturing for domestic uses only. India was also hit by a shortage of ingredients – sourced from abroad -- that were required to manufacture anti-covid-19 vaccines. As New Delhi scaled up its vaccine programme, it also worked to ensure vaccine supply lines were kept open which would help speed up vaccine production.

 

At present, health authorities say that 70% of India’s 1.3 billion people have received at least one dose of an anti-covid-19 vaccine while a quarter of India’s population has received both doses of an anti-covid-19 vaccine.

 

New Delhi withdrawing from vaccination exports meant countries – especially in India’s neighbourhood -- that were looking at India supplying the vaccines started looking to India’s strategic rival China for help. Bangladesh, Nepal and Sri Lanka were among those who received China manufactured vaccines to inoculate their populations.

 

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