India committed to supplying COVID-19 vaccines to other nations; exports to begin by year end, says official
India is committed to supplying COVID-19 vaccines to other nations and such supplies are likely to begin by the end of this year, as the abundant production will not just meet domestic needs but also generate surplus for exports, a top government official said on Monday.
The official, however, added that the supply of vaccines to other nations will have to be balanced against the country's vaccination programme.
"India's commitment to provide vaccines to other nations stands. It has been reiterated by the Indian leadership... However, major supplies to other nations will have to be balanced against India's own needs of vaccines for the country's vaccination program," the official told PTI on condition of anonymity.
India, the world's largest producer of vaccines overall, had suspended exports of COVID-19 vaccines in April to focus on inoculating its own population following a sudden spike in infections.
"We do foresee that there will be spare supplies, and in fact going into late 2021 and beyond, there will be generous vaccine supplies, which would then become available for exports, so the situation is being watched carefully, it is a dynamic situation," he said.
According to the official, currently the priority is to cover the eligible population of India effectively and in the shortest possible time.
"The export needs and commitments are also carefully watched and monitored," he said, adding that going forward, the calibrated approach to exporting vaccines would be taken.
The official said: "India would particularly like to fulfil its commitment to COVAX."
COVAX is a worldwide initiative aimed at equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines directed by Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations, and the WHO.
The Ministry of External Affairs on October 14 had said that coronavirus vaccines have been sent to Nepal, Bangladesh, Myanmar, and Iran as per the government's decision to resume their supplies.
External Affairs Ministry Spokesperson Arindam Bagchi said the government has decided to send the supplies to neighbouring countries initially.
Last month, Union Health Minister Mansukh Mandaviya announced that India will resume supply of coronavirus vaccines abroad.
"Prime Minister Narendra Modi said recently at the UN General Assembly that India will resume supply of coronavirus vaccines. We have decided to start with the neighbourhood," Bagchi had said.
On October 21, India achieved a major milestone in its vaccination programme against COVID-19 as the cumulative vaccine doses administered in the country surpassed the 100-crore mark.
More than 75 percent of India's adult population has received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, with nine states and union territories administering the first dose to all eligible people.
Over 31 percent of the country's around 93 crore adults have been administered both doses, according to health ministry officials.
Three vaccines -- Covishield manufactured by Serum Institute of India, Hyderabad-based Bharat Biotech's Covaxin, and Sputnik V -- are currently being used in the country's COVID vaccination drive.