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WHO pins hopes on India resuming vaccine exports as Africa faces crisis

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The WHO is pinning hopes on India to resume vaccine exports by the end of this year to meet the acute shortage of doses in Africa

The WHO is pinning hopes on India to resume vaccine exports by the end of this year to meet the acute shortage of doses in Africa where less than 3.5% of the population has been covered by the inoculation drive.

The WHO said on Tuesday it was in a constant dialogue with Indian officials to resume supplies to global vaccine-sharing platform COVAX.

"We have been assured by India that supply will restart this year," senior WHO official; Bruce Aylward said at a press briefing in Geneva.

India, the world's biggest maker of vaccines overall, stopped vaccine exports in April as the country was hit by a massive surge in coronavirus cases and was forced to focus on inoculating its own population.

Before India stopped exports, it donated or sold 66 million doses to nearly 100 countries.

New Delhi has made it clear that it will resume exports only when the domestic demand has been met. Meanwhile vaccine production has been stepped up and more vaccines have been cleared for use such as Russia’s Sputnik V and Zydus Cadila’s  Zydus Cadila's three-dose vaccine ZyCoV-D.

India's own inoculations have accelerated since August, especially as the world's biggest vaccine maker, the Serum Institute of India, has more than doubled its output of AstraZeneca shots to 150 million doses a month from its around 75 million in April.

The government wants to vaccinate all of its 944 million adults by December and has so far given at least one dose to 61% of them.

India has delivered more than 75 crores of Covid vaccine doses since the launch of the nationwide drive in January this year, Union Health Minister Mansukh Mandaviya said.  At this rate, up to 43 per cent of the country's population will be covered by December.

The talks on the resumption of exports come ahead of Prime Minister Narendra Modi's visit to Washington next week where vaccines are likely to be discussed at a summit of the leaders of the Indo-Pacific Quad alliance comprising the United States, India, Japan and Australia.

Also read: Zydus Cadila’s India-made 3-dose Covid vaccine approved for use by expert panel