India To Resume Export, Donations Of Surplus Covid Vaccines Next Month

India, the world's biggest maker of vaccines overall, stopped vaccine exports in April to focus on inoculating its own population as infections exploded.

Since April, India's monthly vaccine output has since more than doubled, the government said.

New Delhi:

India will resume the export and donations of excess vaccines next month, Union Health Minister Mansukh Mandaviya announced on Monday, a day before Prime Minister Narendra Modi visits the US where the issue was likely to be raised by President Joe Biden.

India, the world's biggest maker of vaccines overall, stopped vaccine exports in April to focus on inoculating its own population as infections exploded.

The government wants to vaccinate all of its 94.4 crore adults by December and has so far given at least one dose to 61 per cent of them.

The resumption of exports deliberations come ahead of PM Modi's visit to Washington starting Tuesday where vaccines are likely to be discussed at a summit of the leaders of the Quad countries - the United States, India, Japan and Australia.

The renewed export drive, known as 'Vaccine Maitri' will prioritise the global vaccine-sharing platform COVAX and neighbouring countries first, Mr Mandaviya said.

He said that since April, the country's monthly vaccine output has since more than doubled and is set to quadruple to over 300 million doses next month

Total production could top 100 crore in the last three months of the year as new vaccines from companies such as Biological E are likely to be approved, he said.

"We will help other countries and also fulfil our responsibility towards COVAX... Neighbouring (countries) first," he told reporters, adding only excess supplies would be exported.

India donated or sold 6.6 crore doses to nearly 100 countries before the export halt.

India's inoculations have jumped since last month, especially as the world's biggest vaccine maker, the Serum Institute of India, has more than trebled its output of the AstraZeneca shot to 20 crore doses a month from April levels.

Indian companies have set up the capacity to produce nearly 300 crore COVID vaccine doses a year.

(With inputs from Reuters)