UK ‘blames’ SII for delay vaccines priority in India as cases surge: Officials

Updated on Mar 23, 2021 08:27 AM IST

On Thursday, British health secretary Matt Hancock said a delayed delivery of AstraZeneca vaccines made by the Serum Institute, in addition to the need to retest them, would postpone its immunisation program.

Officials in the Union health ministry refuted allegations that the government had stopped the company from exporting its Covid-19 vaccine doses.(File photo)
Officials in the Union health ministry refuted allegations that the government had stopped the company from exporting its Covid-19 vaccine doses.(File photo)
By, London

Vaccine supplies to India have taken a priority as the country records a resurgence of Covid-19 cases, people aware of supply and sourcing have said, amid remarks from officials in the UK that appeared to blame delays in deliveries from Serum Institute of India for a shortfall in its estimated stock of doses.

On Thursday, British health secretary Matt Hancock said a delayed delivery of AstraZeneca vaccines made by the Serum Institute, in addition to the need to retest them, would postpone its immunisation program. The same day, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said the country would receive fewer vaccines than planned a week ago, in part because of a shortfall from the Serum Institute.

“The company has already supplied 5 million doses to UK with the aim of assisting the country in their vaccination programme. There were 5 million more doses to be supplied but since the situation is changing on a day-to-day basis, and new cases rising in India over the past few weeks, the home country has taken priority,” said one of the people familiar with the developments.

“Also, India is ramping up its vaccination drive that has also increased the demand for vaccine doses,” this person added.

Officials in the Union health ministry refuted allegations that the government had stopped the company from exporting its Covid-19 vaccine doses.

“The government has not issued any directions to Serum regarding not to export their Covid vaccine,” said a senior central government official, who asked not to be named.

Serum Institute of India is locally manufacturing Oxford-AstraZeneca’s coronavirus vaccine— AZD1222— as the Covishield. It is one of two vaccines approved in India, and accounts for over 92% of the doses given till Monday.

“Dear Countries & governments, as you wait Covishield supplies, I humbly request you to please be patient, serum institute of india has been directed to prioritise the huge needs of India and along with that balance the needs of the rest of the world. We are trying out best,” SII CEO Adar Poonawalla said in a tweet on February 21.

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