The World Health Organization’s Chief Scientist Soumya Swaminathan has said that India’s ban on the export of coronavirus vaccines had a severe impact on 91 countries, reported NDTV.
“Ninety one countries are impacted by the shortage of supplies, particularly since the AstraZeneca parent company has not been able to compensate for the doses which have not come from Serum [Insitute of India],” Swaminathan said in an interview, adding that these countries were vulnerable to the new, more transmissible strains, including the B.1.617.2 coronavirus variant first found in India.
“Not just B.1.617.2, but other variants will emerge in other countries and spread around the world...” she told NDTV. “We know that these variants spread very quickly. Even before they can be recognised, they are already spreading around the world. The same thing happened with the 117 [variant], now dominant.”
Under the agreement with AstraZeneca, made in 2020, the Serum Institute was expected to provide a billion doses to countries with low and middle income, according to NDTV. In 2020 alone, the Indian vaccine manufacturer was supposed to provide 400 million shots. Their delivery was carried out through Gavi, the global alliance for vaccines.
Swaminathan said that most African countries had not only vaccinated under 0.5% of their population but had also not inoculated all their healthcare workers. “If we continue having this inequitable distribution of available vaccines, we will see some countries going back to some degree of normalcy in their life, while other countries are hit very hard and continue to be hit hard by subsequent waves,” she said, according to NDTV.
On May 23, top virologist Gagandeep Kang had said that India had delayed the process of buying coronavirus vaccines in the bulk and is now left with few options to choose from in the international market.
Several states are facing a shortage of vaccines, which has severely hampered India’s inoculation drive. Many of them have sought to procure vaccines through global tenders or by approaching manufacturers directly. However, some administrations, including in Delhi and Kerala, have said that global vaccine makers refuse to coordinate with them.
On Monday, Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan wrote to 11 chief ministers, requesting them to unitedly ask the Centre to procure coronavirus vaccines and distribute them to states free of cost.
India reported 1,27,510 new coronavirus cases during the previous 24 hours on Tuesday. Its total count of cases since the outbreak of the pandemic last year rose to 2,81,75,044. The toll rose by 2,795 to 3,31,895.
As of Tuesday morning, a total of 21,60,46,638 beneficiaries in India were administered their vaccine shots and 27,80,058 doses were given on Monday alone.