India to expand vaccinations but supplies tight, imports delayed


New Delhi, 23 April: Under fire for his handling of the world’s worst COVID-19 surge, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has opened vaccinations for all adults from next month, but supplies are already running short.

Public forecasts by its only two vaccine producers show their total monthly output of 70-80 million doses will increase only in two months or more, though the number of people eligible for vaccines will double to an estimated 800 million from May 1.

Imports from Russia have also been delayed. India could start receiving the Sputnik V vaccine only by end-May, its local distributor Dr. Reddy’s Laboratories (REDY.NS) told Reuters, at least a month later than New Delhi had expected.

That could lead to chaos at inoculation centres - and possibly help the virus spread further - as people horrified by COVID-19 patients' struggle for hospital beds and medical oxygen rush to seek immunity, government officials warn privately.

India has the world’s biggest vaccine-making capacity, but has decided to delay big exports for now to focus on its own needs. read more

Still, supplies are already running short even for currently prioritised recipients over 45 years old.

"Eligibility doesn't guarantee availability," said a senior government official who declined to be identified.

"There are fears that the entire infrastructure will collapse but at this point all channels are being opened to ramp up supplies from other countries ... India needs a lot of help to deal with this crisis."

India is currently administering about 3 million doses a day, above the daily production of about 2.5 million and using existing inventories to fill the gap. Many states have reported they are out of stock.


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