Vaccine deliveries from the world's largest manufacturer in India will be delayed in March and April due to increased demand within the country, which is grappling with a surge in COVID-19 infections, according to the United Nations-backed vaccine alliance Gavi.
The AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccine is being produced under license in India for the World Health Organization's COVAX program, which is structured to ensure that low-income countries have access to COVID-19 vaccines.
"Delays in granting further export licenses for Serum Institute of India-produced COVID-19 vaccine doses are due to the increased demand of COVID-19 vaccines in India," a spokesperson from Gavi said Thursday.
So far, India has shipped over 60 million doses to 76 countries, the majority of which are AstraZeneca shots produced by the Serum Institute, the world's largest vaccine manufacturer by volume. In their rollout plans, several countries have prioritized the AstraZeneca vaccine. The shot is inexpensive and easier to store at room temperature than most vaccines.
Reuters cited an Indian government source saying New Delhi will continue to supply vaccines in phases.
However, India, which has a population of 1.3 billion people, is facing a new wave of COVID-19 cases after infections slowed dramatically since September, dashing hopes that the pandemic could be over for India.
Many Indian states have broadened their vaccine programs to include all adults since infections have accelerated since late February when the economy fully reopened, and most people still go without masks and flout social distancing advice.
Some states have also given doses to individuals who are not among the prioritized groups to prevent vaccine waste as vials must be used within four hours of being opened.
According to data from the Ministry of External Affairs of India, the country last sent out shots on March 18. On Thursday, the ministry recorded nearly 54,000 new infections over the previous 24 hours, the most since October, bringing the total number of cases to 12 million.