Wednesday, December 1, 2021

India temporarily halts Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine exports

Infections are surging as a new 'double mutant' variant of the coronavirus has been detected from samples collected in India.

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India has placed a temporary hold on all exports of the Oxford-AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine, foreign ministry sources have told the BBC.

They said rising cases meant domestic demand was expected to pick up in the coming weeks, and so the doses were needed for India’s own rollout.

The move – described as a “temporary squeeze” by officials – is expected to affect supplies until the end of April.

Many countries hoping for vaccines under the Covax scheme are likely to be affected.

The scheme, which is led by the World Health Organization (WHO), aims to ensure vaccines are shared fairly among all nations.

India’s largest vaccine manufacturer, the Serum Institute of India (SII), has delayed shipments of the AstraZeneca jab to several countries in recent days, including the UK and Brazil.

India has exported more than 60 million vaccine doses to 76 countries so far, with the majority of these being the Oxford-AstraZeneca jab.

The decision comes as India faces a surge in coronavirus cases. On Wednesday it recorded its sharpest daily rise this year, with more than 47,000 new cases and 275 deaths.

It is opening up vaccinations for those over the age of 45 from April 1, and officials expect demand for vaccinations to increase.

“Domestic demand will have to take precedence,” one foreign ministry source told the BBC.

“Everything else has taken a backseat, for the time being at least,” one source at the ministry told Reuters news agency. “No exports, nothing until the India situation stabilises.”

The authorities are hoping to administer 600 million doses within seven months – about 85 million doses a month.

Meanwhile, a new “double mutant” variant of the coronavirus has been detected from samples collected in India.

Officials are checking if the variant, where two mutations come together in the same virus, may be more infectious or less affected by vaccines than other known versions.

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