Delay in SII’s first shipment to Nepal under Covax
India halted export of Covid-19 vaccines in April after a severe second wave hit the country that impacted the Covid-19 vaccines global access, or Covax programme, which has been established to deliver Covid-19 vaccines equitably to all countries.
The first shipment of Covishield vaccines to Nepal under the Covax programme has been delayed temporarily, people familiar with the development said, although the Pune-based Serum Institute of India, the maker of Covishield, will resume shipping doses to other countries in a week or so under the global initiative.
“Nepal was the first country to begin Covax shipments with, and the consignment was supposed to leave for Nepal on Monday (November 22). Everything was ready, but then there was a request from their side to halt the shipment for a couple of days,” a person familiar with the matter said on condition of anonymity. “We have been made to understand that it had got nothing to do with the company but something from the side of the Nepal government related to preparations.”
India halted export of Covid-19 vaccines in April after a severe second wave hit the country that impacted the Covid-19 vaccines global access, or Covax programme, which has been established to deliver Covid-19 vaccines equitably to all countries. Last week, the central government allowed the company to ship five million doses under the Covax facility after the export restrictions were lifted.
“The Nepal order has been put on hold and not cancelled. The company will send the doses as soon as there is a go ahead from their side,” the person said. “In a day or two, there should be more clarity in terms of countries and doses from the Covax facility and doses to other countries should begin in next six-seven days.”
Supplies under Covax are directly shipped by the manufacturer to the country that needs the doses, said a person familiar with the process.
“It is not like there is a Covax warehouse somewhere and the manufacturer will send the doses there. Imagine the amount of time wasted and the extra cost incurred if it was done that way. Covax shares details of the delivery and the manufacturer sends it,” the person said, but declined to be named. “As of now 5 million doses have been approved by the government of India (under the programme).”
India’s requirement for doses increased from April 1 as it started vaccinating everyone above 45 years of age. The move was aimed at curbing transmission as the country battled a devastating second wave of the pandemic.
Serum Institute may ship 20-30 million doses of Covishield by the end of the year, the company has said in the past, but it would depend on India’s Covid-19 situation as many countries in the world are reporting another Covid wave. India wants to inoculate its eligible population as soon as possible.
Currently, 38.3% of the country’s adult population is partially vaccinated, while another 43.3% is fully vaccinated. The government has started a special drive — Har Ghar Dastak (knock on every door) — to ensure all eligible people are vaccinated.
In October, the central government permitted Serum Institute to export one million doses each to Nepal, Myanmar and Bangladesh under Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s vaccine maitri (friendship) initiative.
Another Covid-19 vaccine manufacturer, Hyderabad-headquartered Bharat Biotech, was also allowed to ship one million doses of Covaxin to Iran.
“The health minister publicly announced that India will resume Covid-19 vaccine export in the last quarter and the promise has been kept,” a central government official said on condition of anonymity.