India to resume export of Covid vaccines from October: Mansukh Mandaviya

Mansukh L. Mandaviya
India will resume export of Covid vaccines from next month after ensuring domestic demand is met, said Union Health Minister Mansukh Mandaviya on Monday. 

Mandaviya said India will ramp up production in the fourth quarter (October-December) of the calendar year to help the world and fulfill the country’s commitment towards COVAX - the global alliance for Covid vaccines - under its Vaccine Maitri programme. 

COVAX is co-led by Gavi, the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations, and the World Health Organization.

India has exported 66.3 million Covid vaccine doses till April, of which 10.7 million doses have been given as grant by the Indian government, 35.7 million doses as commercial exports by vaccine makers, and 19.8 million doses sent to COVAX. 

By the end of this month, the government is expecting a supply of 260 million doses by domestic manufacturers and 300 million doses in October. 

“After ensuring our demand is met, we will increase the production of vaccines and take Vaccine Maitri forward in the fourth quarter. Vaccine production is increasing and more companies are coming into the market,” said Mandaviya in a virtual address. 

Sources say the Centre has been working to create a stockpile of vaccines for India in case a third wave strikes. Vaccine supplies, meanwhile, have improved. The Serum Institute of India (SII) is producing around 160 million doses of Covishield a month, and has indicated it will make 200 million doses of Covishield from October. 

Last week, Seth Berkley, chief executive officer (CEO) of Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, tweeted: “India has done a great job with its vaccine roll-out and, when they are ready to ease restrictions, can make a vital impact on the world stage by ensuring equitable access to #Covid19 vaccines. Great to see optimism on this from @SerumInstIndia's @adarpoonawalla.” 

SII CEO Adar Poonawalla had indicated recently that vaccine exports may ease in two months or so, provided India has created a stockpile to weather any imminent third wave. Poonawalla has said India is coming very close to a point where there is more than enough vaccine stock. 

As for Novavax vaccine’s clinical trials on the paediatric population, Poonawalla updated that they have started trials, and three to four months is the minimum time frame for that. By January-February, there is a possibility that Covovax (SII-manufactured Novavax vaccine) could be ready for approval for use on children.

Mandaviya had said in August that Covaxin production was slated to rise to 58 million doses a month, from 25 million monthly doses. Meanwhile, Zydus Cadila’s 10-million doses a month of ZyCoV-D is expected in the October quarter, too. SII’s Covovax (Novavax) vaccine is also expected to start production in the October quarter.

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