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India ready to step up vaccine supplies to African countries on war footing as Omicron threat looms

India has announced that it stands ready to “expeditiously" send more COVID-19 vaccines to African countries amid the outbreak of the new Omicron variant

India stands ready to “expeditiously" send more COVID-19 vaccines to African countries amid the outbreak of the new Omicron variant.

“The Government of India stands ready to support the countries affected in Africa in dealing with the Omicron variant, including by supplying  Made-in-India vaccines," according to a statement issued by the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) said in a statement.

“Supplies can be undertaken through COVAX or bilaterally."

India also stands ready to supply essential life-saving drugs, test kits, gloves, PPE kits and medical equipment such as ventilators, as may be required. Besides, Indian institutions would favourably consider cooperation in genomic surveillance and virus characterization related research work with their African counterparts, the MEA statement added. 

The government had cleared all orders placed by COVAX for supplies of the AstraZeneca vaccine, known as Covishield in India, to countries such as Malawi, Ethiopia, Zambia, Mozambique, Guinea and Lesotho, apart from delivering doses of the home-grown Covaxin shot to Botswana.

“Any new requirement projected either bilaterally or through COVAX will be considered expeditiously," the MEA statement said.

India has already supplied more than 25 million doses of domestically made vaccines to 41 African countries, mostly through the WHO-led global vaccine-distribution network COVAX.

India last month resumed overseas shipments of COVID-19 vaccines for the first time since April, when it banned exports to inoculate its own citizens as infections surged.

Domestic vaccine production has more than tripled since then to about 300 million doses a month. The country has administered at least one dose to 83% of its 944 million adults and two doses to 47%.

Meanwhile, the number of fresh daily COVID-19 cases in the country has also come drastically and continues to decline evn after the festive season when infections are normally known to surge due to crowding at religious places and markets.