India will resume the export and donation of excess vaccines next month, Union Health Minister Mansukh Mandaviya announced on Monday, a day before Prime Minister Narendra Modi visited the United States, where President Joe Biden is expected to raise the issue.
As infections soared, India, the world’s largest producer of vaccines overall, halted vaccine exports in April to focus on immunizing its own people.
The government hopes to vaccinate all of its 94.4 million adults by December and has already vaccinated 61% of them.
The resumption of export discussions comes ahead of Prime Minister Modi’s visit to Washington, which begins on Tuesday, and where vaccines are expected to be discussed at a summit of the leaders of the Quad countries – the United States, India, Japan, and Australia.
Mr. Mandaviya stated that the renewed export drive, dubbed ‘Vaccine Maitri,’ will prioritize the global vaccine-sharing platform COVAX and neighboring countries first.
He stated that the country’s monthly vaccine output has more than doubled since April and is expected to quadruple to over 300 million doses next month.
Total production could exceed 100 crores in the final three months of the year, he said, as new vaccines from companies such as Biological E are expected to be approved.
“We will help other countries and also fulfill our responsibility towards COVAX… Neighbouring (countries) first,” he told reporters, adding only excess supplies would be exported.
Before the export ban, India donated or sold 6.6 crore doses to nearly 100 countries.
Inoculations in India have increased since last month, particularly because the world’s largest vaccine manufacturer, the Serum Institute of India, has more than tripled its output of the AstraZeneca shot to 20 crore doses per month from April levels.
Indian firms have established the capacity to produce nearly 300 crore COVID vaccine doses per year.