By deciding to prioritize its domestic market and limit exports of the AstraZeneca vaccine, India risks weakening the Covax initiative and the supply of doses to Africa.
After taking a certain delay, the Covax initiative had finally started with deliveries of vaccines, for African countries, to Ghana and Côte d'Ivoire in early March. Both states had received doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine and started their vaccination campaigns. The World Health Organization (WHO) then planned to send doses "regularly over the next few months".
Forty African countries are involved in this initiative, launched by the Coalition for Innovations in Epidemic Preparedness (CEPI), GAVI (the Vaccine Alliance), and the WHO. The African Union had also decided to release funds to accelerate access to vaccine doses. For the continent alone, the Covax initiative should make it possible to import 600 million doses in 2021, to which are added the 270 million doses purchased by the AU.
Delayed March and April shipments
But the initiative has come to a halt in recent days. India, which needs vaccines for its population, has indeed decided to limit exports of AstraZeneca vaccine, manufactured by the Serum Institute of India. Of course, this is an interim decision. But impossible, for the moment, to know when will resume deliveries of vaccines.
Information confirmed by GAVI last Thursday. The Vaccine Alliance admitted that deliveries would "be delayed due to lack of export licenses for additional doses of vaccine (...) produced by the Serum Institute of India (SII) to be shipped in March and April ".
Several countries, like Morocco, had taken the lead in ordering their own doses of the vaccine. Algeria is also fending for itself, although it relies heavily on the Covax initiative, which provides for the dispatch of 1,8 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine. While some laboratories, particularly in South Korea and China, have not announced a slowdown in their exports, the SII break worries the beneficiaries of the initiative: Covax aims to supply, by the end of the year 2021, doses to 20% of the population of the participating nations.