COVAX Gets Major Delay As India, It's Largest Producer, Won't Deliver Vaccines Till End of Year

On Tuesday India's Serum Institute said it won't begin exporting vaccines outside of India until the end of the year.

The Serum Institute is the world's largest supplier to the United Nations' global immunization plan, known as COVAX. Vaccine export from India has been stalled since March due to India's spike in COVID-19 cases and the delay has led 60 countries to pause vaccine rollouts.

The World Health Organization and Gavi, COVAX partners, anticipated India would restart exporting vaccines by June and that 90 million doses would be impacted by the delay. But the additional wait will no doubt impede COVAX as the effort relies on the Serum Institute for doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine.

"COVAX has no plausible path to meeting its modest goals unless rich countries share doses and technology immediately," Zain Rizvi, a law and policy researcher at Public Citizen, told the Associated Press.

Vaccine rollout in India
A woman speaks to a health worker near to notices displayed in a civil hospital indicating about the Covid-19 coronavirus vaccine being out of stock in Amritsar on May 17, 2021. NARINDER NANU/AFP via Getty Images

For more reporting on this story by the Associated Press see bellow.

"SII has delivered more than 200 million doses," the Serum Institute said Tuesday in a statement posted to its Twitter account. The company said that in the past few days, there had been "intense discussion" on the decision of the Indian government and vaccine manufacturers about the possible export of vaccines.

"We continue to scale up and prioritize India," the company said. "We also hope to start delivering to COVAX and other countries by the end of the year."

Serum Institute CEO Adar Poonawalla previously warned that if the coronavirus crisis in India did not subside, "I am scared of what...we will have to do, and what will happen."

Rizvi called the new delay announced by the Serum Institute "a nightmare" for global vaccine access.

The U.N. effort to share COVID-19 vaccines is depending on nearly 1 billion doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine being made by the Serum Institute. It has small amounts of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine and deals with other producers including Johnson & Johnson and Moderna Inc., but most of those doses will only be delivered late this year or next.