India’s daily Covid-19 vaccinations have slowed from their peak early this month while new infections have set a record, government data showed on Friday, as its main producer of shots urged the United States to end a ban on raw material exports.
After giving and selling tens of millions of Covid-19 vaccine doses abroad, India has suddenly found itself short of the drug. It has abruptly changed rules to allow it to fast-track vaccine imports, having earlier rebuffed foreign drugmakers like Pfizer.
Vaccinations peaked at 4.5 million doses on April 5 but have averaged about 3 million a day since then, according to the government’s Co-Win portal to coordinate immunisations.
The AstraZeneca vaccine, locally made by the Serum Institute of India (SII), accounts for more than 91% of the 115.5 million doses given in the country. But production ramp-up at SII, the world’s biggest vaccine maker, has been delayed by a raw-material shortage.
SII Chief Executive Adar Poonawalla directly appealed to US President Joe Biden to end the supply curb, which is aimed at supporting American vaccine companies, after diplomatic efforts made little progress.
“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 coronavirus cases in the world this month. Its total of 14.3 million is the most after the United States, with 174,308 deaths.
Many vaccination centres in India are now rationing supplies though it is only inoculating people above 45 years, having started the campaign in mid-January with front-line workers.
It has administered the most doses in the world after the United States and China, but it ranks much lower per capita.
Many states have sought an expansion of the immunisation drive to include all adults, but the government has said doses are “finite".
The government said on Friday the country had a stock of about 30 million doses. Going by its vaccination trend in the past week, that will be enough for 10 days.
India this week gave emergency authorisation to Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine and imports to cover as many as 125 million people will start this month. The government has also urged Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson and Johnson to sell their shots to India.
It has also allowed biomedical research body Haffkine Institute, based in the state of Maharashtra, to produce the home-grown shot Covaxin as developer Bharat Biotech struggles to boost its output.