Nepal delays India’s COVAX vaccine supply resumption
Airport staff unload carton boxes of Covishield vaccine developed by Serum Institute of India (SII) at the Mumbai airport on February 24, 2021. (Photo by INDRANIL MUKHERJEE/AFP via Getty Images)
INDIA’S resumption of supplying Covid-19 vaccines to the global COVAX vaccine-sharing platform after eight months faced a delay on Monday (22) when its northern neighbour Nepal requested to postpone it, informed sources told Reuters.
The Serum Institute of India (SII), the world’s biggest vaccine manufacturer, was scheduled to ship its Covishield (licensed version of the AstraZeneca)doses through COVAX to Kathmandu on Monday but the latter said it wanted them only around November 29, one of the sources, a Nepalese health ministry official, said.
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The official, however, refused to explain the reasons for the delay. None of the two sources that confirmed the news wanted to be identified ahead of the delivery of the vaccines, expected to be in the hundreds of thousands.
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Nepal has seen a total of around 820,000 cases of Covid infections while its death toll is 11,500, according to Johns Hopkins University, the US.
While the spokesperson of the Nepal health ministry did not make an immediate comment on the matter, the SII chose not to respond to a Reuters’ request either.
The SII, based in the city of Pune in the western Indian state of Maharashtra, last supplied to COVAX in April before India halted all vaccine exports as a devastating second wave wreaked havoc. The SII has a deal to sell millions of vaccine doses to COVAX, which distributes jabs to low and medium-income nations.
Before the suspension of the exports, SII sent about 20 million Covishield doses to various countries through COVAX and many more doses as part of the Narendra Modi government’s vaccine grants programme.
Last month, India sent around four million vaccine doses bilaterally to its friends and neighbours after domestic output increased. SII has increased the production of Covishield almost four times to 240 million doses a month since April.