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India-made vaccines headed for UK shores as well

The UK government has said that Britain will receive 10 million AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine made by India's Serum Institute of India (IANS)

Britain will receive 10 million AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine doses made by the Pune-based Serum Institute of India (SII), the UK government said in a statement on Tuesday.

SII, the world’s largest vaccine manufacturer, is producing the AstraZeneca-Oxford University vaccine for use in India and dozens of poor and middle-income countries.

The UK government said the agreement follows assurances from the SII that providing doses to the UK would not impact its commitment to provide vaccines to poorer countries.

Britain’s Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) has been auditing the manufacturing processes at SII as part of UK’s official procedure that is carried before the stocks can be shipped into the country.

It is also providing doses to the COVAX programme backed by the World Health Organization and GAVI vaccine alliance.

Britain has been ahead at inoculating people, with nearly 20.5 million residents receiving the first dose of a Covid-19 vaccine so far, according to official data.

The European Union’s drug regulator is also auditing the manufacturing site of SII. AstraZeneca has committed to delivering 180 million doses in the second quarter to the EU.

The Indian government assured the people on Tuesday that there were plenty of Covid-19 vaccines for the country even though it has exported stocks overseas.

“The Central Government has adequate stock and will provide the required vaccine doses to the States and Union Territories. States should not store, reserve, conserve or create a buffer stock of the Covid vaccines,” an official statement said.

There is a growing demand for Indian vaccines as the country has emerged as the “pharmacy of the world” amid the huge shortage that has developed for the shots worldwide. The vaccines have already been despatched to 15 countries while another 25 are in the queue, External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar had said recently.

India has so far inoculated more than 12 million people. The country has set a target to vaccinate 300 million of its 1.3 billion population against the virus by August.

The number of coronavirus cases have fallen continuously in India since a mid-September peak, but have started rising again rising since early February. Over 70% of the cases have been reported from Maharashtra and Kerala but the number of cases in states such as Punjab, Gujarat, Tamil Nadu and Karnataka have also started to rise, which is a worrying development.