Union Health Minister Mansukh Mandaviya on Monday said that India will resume exporting surplus coronavirus vaccines from October, PTI reported. India had halted export of Covid-19 vaccines in April after the second wave of the pandemic started to peak.
Mandaviya told reporters in Delhi that while vaccinating the country’s citizens remains the government’s top priority, it will resume exporting vaccines in the next quarter (October-December) to meet India’s commitment towards the World Health Organization-backed COVAX initiative.
COVAX works to guarantee fair and equitable access to Covid-19 vaccines for every country in the world.
The Narendra Modi government had sent nearly 6.6 crore vaccine doses to 95 countries under its “Vaccine Maitri” initiative till the export was halted. The government faced criticism as several states faced shortage of vaccines amid the second wave of the pandemic.
However, in May, the Bharatiya Janata Party said that 84% of the coronavirus vaccines exported by the Centre were part of commercial and licensing liabilities of the two manufacturers, Serum Institute of India and Bharat Biotech.
In June, World Health Organization chief scientist Soumya Swaminathan had said that the halt on vaccine export had severely impacted inoculation in 91 countries due to shortage in supplies.
Pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca, which has provided the technology for the Covishield vaccine, has not been able to compensate for the doses which Serum Institute of India failed to provide due to the restriction on exports, Swaminathan had said.
Meanwhile, on Monday, Mandaviya said that the government will receive over 30 crore doses of Covid-19 vaccines in October and more than 100 crore doses in the next three months.
“The production will go up as Biological E and other companies are bringing their vaccines into the market,” Mandaviya said, according to ANI.
The health minister added that more than 81 crore doses of Covid-19 vaccines have been administered in the country.
According to data from the government’s CoWIN portal, more than 81.49 crore doses have been given by Monday evening. Over 20.67 beneficiaries in the country have received both the doses.
This means that the decision to resume export of vaccines came at a time when 62.68% of the country’s 130 crore population has received at least one dose of the vaccine, while 15.9% have received both the doses.