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India's Serum Institute aims to start delivering Covid shots to COVAX by year's end, says Delhi must come first

India's Serum Institute aims to start delivering Covid shots to COVAX by year's end, says Delhi must come first
The Serum Institute of India, once hailed as the pharmacy of the world, has said it won't restart delivery of Covid-19 vaccines to the world's poorest countries through the COVAX scheme until the end of the year.

In a statement on Tuesday, Adar Poonawalla, the CEO of the Serum Institute of India (SII), said there had been intense discussions between himself, Indian vaccine manufacturers, and the government on whether shots would be exported.  

Poonawalla claimed that the SII ranks among the top three producers in the world for Covid-19 vaccines, but said it was necessary to continue upscaling production and prioritizing India.

He noted that it was unrealistic to assume it would take just two to three months to vaccinate all of India against Covid-19, suggesting it was therefore unlikely that significant exports would resume in the near future. "We hope to start delivering to COVAX and other countries by the end of this year," he said. 

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Poonawalla said the SII, and India as a whole, had been exporting millions of shots when Covid-19 appeared to be under control in the country. Given India's current predicament, with around 300,000 new cases every day, he suggested it was right for India to hold on to its indigenously manufactured shots. 

"We would like to reiterate that we have never exported vaccines at the cost of the people in India, and remain committed to doing everything we can in support of the vaccination drive in the country," he added.

India halted large exports of Covid-19 shots in March as cases began to rise, having previously engaged in vaccine diplomacy, gifting jabs to other nations. Further restrictions on exports have left some of the world's poorest countries empty-handed, including those procuring through the global COVAX initiative.  

In early May, Ahmed Ogwell Ouma, deputy director of the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, told the German news platform DW that the AstraZeneca vaccine manufactured by the SII was the "backbone" of the continent's inoculation program. 

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