India could resume deliveries of COVID-19 shots to global vaccine-sharing platform COVAX in a few weeks for the first time since April, said two health industry sources, ending a suspension of supplies that has hurt poor countries.
The World Health Organization (WHO), which co-leads COVAX, has been urging India to restart supplies for the programme, especially after it sent about 4 million doses to its neighbours and partners in October.
Based on an off-the-cuff approval from India, COVAX officials have started planning allocations of the Covishield shot for various countries, said one among the sources, both of whom declining to be identified pending a final agreement.
Covishield is a licensed version of the AstraZeneca (AZN.L) shot made by the Serum Institute of India (SII), the world’s biggest vaccine maker.
SII has nearly quadrupled its output of Covishield to up to 240 million doses a month since April, when India stopped all exports so as to inoculate its own people during a surge of cases.
“There will need to be purchase orders confirmed to SII, labelling and packing, export authorisation granted for each of these shipments,” said the source. “So, the first deliveries, assuming the Indian government grants export authorisation, won’t happen until a few weeks from now.”
SII, the health ministry and also the WHO didn’t immediately reply to requests for comment.
Earlier in the day, the Ministry has said in a statement that Indian states had over 159 million unutilised doses of varied vaccines, as inoculations have slowed after 79% of the country’s 944 million adults got one dose and 37% got two doses.
WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said on Friday that COVAX had the money and the contracts to buy vaccines for low-income countries but “manufacturers have not played their part”.
COVAX in September cut its 2021 delivery target by nearly 30% to 1.425 billion doses.