Tamil Nadu Health Minister Ma Subramanian on Tuesday asked the Centre to defer resumption of exports of Covid-19 vaccines and take measures to inoculate all eligible Indians, The Hindu reported.

Subramanian, citing government data, said that more than 97 crore Indians were eligible for inoculation but only 80 crore beneficiaries have been vaccinated so far. “Of this, 61 crore have received the first dose,” he added.

The minister also pointed out that India was yet to start vaccinating those in the 12 to 18 age group, The Hindu reported.

He added: “At the national-level, 115 crore doses are required, and we need to expand vaccination for 12 to 18 years. In such a situation, how will it be appropriate to export vaccines?”

Subramanian flagged that Tamil Nadu was also facing shortages of Covid-19 vaccines. He added that vaccination camps in the state had to be shut on Monday and Tuesday.

The minister said that over 6 crore people in Tamil Nadu were eligible for vaccination and the state needed 12 crore doses to inoculate them fully.

“So far, we have administered 4.37 crore doses, and require more than 7.5 crore doses,” the minister said, according to The Hindu.

Subramanian said the Centre should consider exporting vaccines only after India’s entire eligible population is inoculated. “When vaccines are the only solution today, the country has managed to administer less than one-third of the doses compared to what is required,” he said.

India had halted exports of Covid-19 vaccines in April after the second wave of the pandemic started to peak.

On Monday, Union Health Minister Mansukh Mandaviya announced that exports will resume from October. Covid-19 cases in India are now declining.

The minister said that while vaccinating India’s citizens remains the top priority, the government also has to fulfill its commitment towards the World Health Organization-backed COVAX initiative, which works to guarantee fair and equitable access to Covid-19 vaccines across the world.

On Wednesday, the the World Health Organization thanked India for its decision to resume exports of vaccines. “This is an important development in support of reaching the 40% vaccination target in all countries by the end of the year,” the global health agency’s chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said.