Reuters/ New Delhi
India pledged yesterday to raise monthly production of its own Covid-19 vaccine about tenfold to nearly 100mn doses by September, as immunisations have slowed in the country despite a surge in new infections.
After donating and selling tens of millions vaccine doses abroad, India has suddenly found itself short of Covaxin, its only domestically made shot. The government is now trying to raise production at manufacturer Bharat Biotech, and fast-track imports of other vaccines.
The ministry of science and technology, giving the September target, pegged current capacity at 10mn doses a month.
“The current production capacity of indigenously developed Covaxin vaccine will be doubled by May-June 2021 and then increased nearly 6-7 fold by July-August,” it said.
The ministry added that the government would provide $17mn in funding to boost Covaxin output. Apart from Bharat Biotech, two state-sector firms — Haffkine Biopharmaceutical and Indian Immunologicals Ltd — will develop a combined monthly capacity of up to 35mn doses in the coming months, under the plan.
India’s daily vaccinations peaked at 4.5mn doses on April 5, as its second wave of infections picked up, but have averaged about 3mn a day since then, according to the government’s Co-Win portal that coordinates immunisations.
The AstraZeneca vaccine, made locally by the Serum Institute of India (SII), accounts for more than 91% of the 115.5mn doses given in the country. But a production ramp-up at SII, the world’s biggest vaccine maker, has been delayed by a raw-material shortage due to US supply restrictions.
APPEAL TO BIDEN
SII Chief Executive Adar Poonawalla appealed directly to US President Joe Biden to end the supply curb, which is aimed at supporting American vaccine companies.
“Respected @POTUS, if we are to truly unite in beating this virus, on behalf of the vaccine industry outside the US, I humbly request you to lift the embargo of raw-material exports out of the US so that vaccine production can ramp up,” Poonawalla said on Twitter.
India has reported the most number of Covid-19 cases in the world this month. Its total of 14.3mn infections since the pandemic began is the most after the United States. India has also recorded 174,308 deaths.
Many vaccination centres in India are now rationing supplies though they are only inoculating people above 45 years, having started the campaign in mid-January with front-line workers. India has administered the most doses in the world after the United States and China, but it ranks much lower per capita.
The government said yesterday the country had a stock of about 26.7mn doses of vaccines. Going by vaccination rates in the past week, that will last about nine days.
Mimicker Raju Srivastav (left) and Charlie Chaplin impressionist Rajan Kumar take part in an event organised to spread awareness and safety measures against the spread of Covid-19 coronavirus in Mumbai, yesterday.
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