The World Health Organisation on Monday said that the COVAX initiative urgently needed 2 crore doses of coronavirus vaccines to make up for interruptions in supply triggered by increased demands for shots in India, which is the main supplier of AstraZeneca shots.
India is a key supplier of the United Nations-backed COVAX initiative to give shots to some of the world’s poorest countries.
The health body’s statement came after it said last month that as per an agreement between global vaccination alliance GAVI and vaccine manufacturer Serum Institute India, the firm will provide its Covishield vaccine to 64 lower-income economies under COVAX.
However, in an interview to The Times earlier this month, Serum Institute Chief Executive Officer Adar Poonawalla said he was struggling to meet supply commitments made to the Indian government and was planning to start production in other countries. In another interview to The Financial Times, Poonawalla said that the vaccine shortage in India would continue till July since his company had not boosted the production capacity because “there were no orders”.
Following his comment, the Indian government refuted the claim that it had not placed orders for coronavirus vaccines despite the devastating second wave of the pandemic. Later, the Serum Instituteand Poonawalla tweeted endorsing the government’s claim. In his tweet, Poonawalla said that his company would supply 11 crore doses of Covishield to the central government and another 11 crore to the state governments and private hospitals.
All these commitments mentioned by the Serum Institute chief are apart from the ones the World Health Organization stated last month.
Several states in India have postponed the rollout of the third phase of inoculation for those between 18 and 44 years as they have run out of vaccines, exacerbating a second wave of the pandemic. Vaccination centres across the country have largely said that they have no slots available for the newly added beneficiaries and are still giving the shots only to those are 45 and above.
So far, more than 15.70 crore shots of the coronavirus vaccine have been administered in India, while more than 2.88 crore people have received both the doses, according to government data.