India is unlikely to resume major exports of COVID-19 vaccines until at least October as it diverts shots for domestic use, government sources told Reuters.
This longer-than-expected delay is set to worsen supply shortages from the global COVAX initiative. It was previously expected that exports would restart from June
The Serum Institute of India (SII), the world's biggest vaccine maker producing the AstraZeneca (AZN.L) vaccine, told Reuters it hoped to restart deliveries to COVAX and other countries by the end of this year. "We would like to reiterate that we have never exported vaccines at the cost of the people of India and remain committed to do everything we can in the support of the vaccination drive in the country," SII said in a statement.
Battling the world's biggest jump in coronavirus infections, India halted vaccine exports a month ago after donating or selling more than 66 million doses. The move has left countries including Bangladesh, Nepal, Sri Lanka and many in Africa scrambling for alternate supplies.
The World Health Organization, which co-leads COVAX, on Monday called on vaccine makers outside India to advance supplies to the programme given the shortfall from the South Asian country.
"We don't have to officially convey to all countries as we are not obligated to do," one of the sources said about the decision to hold back exports. "It was internally discussed and some countries were asked not to expect export commitments given the current Indian situation." The source did not name the countries told about the delay.