India delays exports of Covishield amid Covid surge; Centre allays safety concerns

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File: Employees pack boxes containing vials of Covid-19 vaccine at Serum Institute of India in Pune, India. (A...Read More

NEW DELHI: With fresh Covid infections on the rise, India has put a temporary suspension on all major exports of the AstraZeneca-Oxford University vaccine which is being manufactured by the Pune-based Serum Institute, reported Reuters.
According to sources, the move will affect supplies to the GAVI/WHO-backed Covax vaccine-sharing facility through which more than 180 countries, mostly poor, are expected to get doses of the vaccine.
Through Covax, India has so far supplied 17.7 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine, known locally as Covishield.
According to the external affairs ministry website, there has been no vaccine export from India since Thursday.
The development comes at a time when India is planning to expand its nationwide immunization drive to include all those above the age of 45 years starting April 1.
The Centre has also asked states to step up the vaccination programme and flagged concerns over slow pace of inoculations in some regions.
"Everything else has taken a backseat, for the time being at least," one of the sources told Reuters.
"No exports, nothing till the time the India situation stabilises. The government won't take such a big chance at the moment when so many need to be vaccinated in India."
'Covishield is safe'
Meanwhile, the Centre on Wednesday said there is no signal of concern regarding the Covishield vaccine amid reports about possible side-effects such as blood clotting in some countries.
The expert committee which closely keeps track and records adverse events following immunisations has concluded that thrombosis events due to Covishield in India is not a problem, it said.
"There is no signal whatsoever for this concern. Covishield is safe, please proceed with its scale-up and uptake. We want to assure that there is no risk of blood clotting-related complications that were suspected in some nations with Covishield," Niti Aayog member (Health) Dr V K Paul said in response to a query at a press conference.
ICMR Director General Dr Balram Bhargava said that both Covishield and Bharat Biotech's Covaxin are effective against the UK and Brazilian variants of the virus.
He was asked if the vaccines that are being used right now in India are effective against the three new variants of concern — the UK variant, South African variant and the Brazilian variant.
(With inputs from PTI, Reuters)

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