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Health minister Mansukh Mandaviya on Monday announced that India will resume its export drive — dubbed “Vaccine Maitri” (vaccine friendship) — from next month in order to meet the country’s commitment to the Covax global pool.
He also added that vaccinating India’s citizens will remain the top priority of the government.
Mr Mandaviya also told Indian media that the government is expecting to receive over 300 million doses of Covid-19 vaccines from manufacturers in October. “The production will go up as Biological E and other companies are bringing their vaccines into the market,” said the minister.
India, the world’s biggest maker of vaccines, has not supplied the jabs since April as the country grappled with a crippling second wave which brought the healthcare sector to its knees. The crisis was compounded by a shortage of oxygen cylinders and hospital beds, leading to deaths.
Though the federal government did not officially acknowledge it, but the country also faced a vaccine shortage, with large states like Maharashtra, Chhattisgarh and Odisha temporarily shutting down their vaccination centres and Delhi limiting the number of people allowed to be vaccinated.
At the time, the government had only opened up vaccinations for those above the age of 45, and shots for adults over the age of 18 began in May after a ban on exports.
The ban severely affected countries that placed orders with India’s Serum Institute which is producing the Oxford-AstraZeneca jabs locally and was supposed to supply affordable vaccines to developing and under-developed nations under its alliance with GAVI and Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
The situation improved drastically in the recent months with cases on the decline and India’s vaccination rate picking up. A record 25 million doses were administered on 17 September alone to mark the birthday of prime minister Narendra Modi.
India’s cumulative vaccination coverage has exceeded the 800 million mark with 3,778,296 doses administered in the last 24 hours, according to the Union health ministry on Monday. However, only 14.8 per cent of the massive total population of the country is fully vaccinated and 44 per cent has received at least one dose.