NEW DELHI: Union Health Minister Mansukh Mandaviya on Tuesday announced that India, starting October, will resume the export of Covid vaccines that was abruptly halted when the devastating second wave of the pandemic struck India in April this year.
Mandaviya said that the exports of the vaccine will resume under the “Vaccine Maitri” programme in the fourth quarter starting October 2021- while emphasising that inoculating the Indian population remains the government’s top priority.
“India will be resuming the export of vaccines under "Vaccine Maitri" in order to fulfill the commitment of India towards COVAX, in line with our motto Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam,” said Mandaviya, adding that the "surplus supply" of vaccines will be shared with other countries.
COVAX is co-led by Gavi, the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI), and WHO and has been envisaged for pooling vaccines for poor countries.
The minister said that in October, the Centre is expecting a supply of 30 crore from different vaccine makers which will go further up in later months.
So far, nearly 81 crore Covid vaccine doses have been administered in India and the national vaccination drive against coronavirus seems to have picked up the pace for about a month.
Meanwhile, the announcement of the resumption of vaccine exports by India comes ahead of PM Narendra Modi's visit to the US next week where vaccines are likely to be discussed at a summit of the leaders of the Quad countries - India, Japan, and Australia, apart from the host nation.
The WHO had said last week that it was in constant dialogue with Indian officials to resume supplies to COVAX.
"We have been assured that supply will restart this year," senior WHO official Bruce Aylward had announced.
Till mid-April, India had donated or sold nearly 6.6 crore Covid vaccine doses to about 100 different countries, before deciding to put a halt on the exports of the crucial supply as the infections exploded countrywide.
For several months, the vaccination drive in the country had also not picked up the desired pace owing to the supply issues and also, as some experts put it, because of faulty inoculation strategies but have gathered pace now for the last few weeks when the average daily vaccination has reached nearly 80 lakh mark.
The government hopes to be able to inoculate all its 94 crore adult population with two doses of vaccines each by the year-end.