Here's how India flipped its Covid vaccine fortunes in a few months
Only months ago, India ran so short of COVID-19 vaccines that computer experts wrote software code here to help people snag scarce immunisation slots and the then health minister had to constantly battle opposition criticism on social media.
The minister later quit and in came a little-known but hands-on politician, Mansukh Mandaviya, who, according to a person close to him, communicates with vaccine producers on a near daily basis and tries to resolve their problems promptly.
Vaccine supplies have surged.
Government officials say they are confident of fully immunizing nearly all adults by December, giving it the confidence to announce a gradual restart of vaccine exports in the October quarter, for the first time since April when a second surge in infections overwhelmed hospitals.
That will help the sputtering global COVAX vaccine-sharing programme, which is far behind its pledge to deliver 2 billion doses this year following supply problems and India’s export curbs.
The GAVI vaccine alliance, which sponsors the programme along with the World Health Organization, UNICEF and the CEPI, this month cut COVAX’s supply target by nearly 30% to 1.425 billion doses.
“This could have an immense positive impact on both health security within India as well as globally,” a GAVI spokesperson told Reuters about the export announcement on Monday.
“Our priority right now is to engage with the government of India and Serum Institute of India (SII) to understand the impact this will have on our supply schedule.”
The turnaround is chiefly thanks to the SII, which is cranking up more doses of AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 shot than the government’s most optimistic projection.
SII would supply 200 million doses of the vaccine, branded Covishield, to the government this month, compared with about 150 million the previous month, said a government source who declined to be identified.
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