Will India’s Vaccine Export Ban Hit Malaysia’s COVAX Supply?

India’s temporary hold on exports of AstraZeneca’s Covid-19 vaccine manufactured by the Serum Institute of India has affected South Korea — which produces doses under COVAX for Malaysia — amid production delays at a South Korean vaccine manufacturing plant.

KUALA LUMPUR, March 31 — India’s Covid-19 vaccine export curbs have hit COVAX, including South Korea that is also separately producing AstraZeneca doses for export to Malaysia under the global vaccine-sharing programme.

Reuters reported yesterday that South Korea is expecting a delay in shipments of the AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccine manufactured by the Serum Institute of India (SII) to around the third week of April, and will only be receiving 432,000 of 690,000 doses that were initially promised. 

“There’s uncertainty over global vaccine supplies but we’re working on a plan to ensure no disruptions in the second quarter and making efforts to secure more vaccines,” Kim Ki-nam, who heads South Korea’s Covid-19 vaccination task force, was quoted saying.

The Guardian reported last Thursday slower than expected production of the AstraZeneca vaccine at a manufacturing plant by South Korea’s SK Bioscience for the World Health Organization-backed COVAX scheme. 

A spokesperson from Unicef, which is distributing the shots under COVAX, reportedly said vaccine shipment volumes from South Korea for COVAX would be lower in March, but that AstraZeneca has informed the UN-backed programme that it would make up for the delayed volumes in April and May.

It is unclear if South Korea will delay shipments of AstraZeneca vaccines from its manufacturing plant to Malaysia, even as Malaysia is expecting delivery of 1.38 million doses through COVAX from South Korea in the second quarter of the year. CodeBlue has asked Unicef Malaysia for comment.

India’s temporary hold on exports of the AstraZeneca vaccine manufactured by SII has also reportedly caused shipment delays of vaccines under COVAX for Indonesia, the Philippines, and Vietnam. 

From the 28 million doses of the India-manufactured AstraZeneca vaccine for COVAX, India itself has received more than a third of the vaccine doses, the biggest share of doses India has supplied to the global programme that provides coronavirus vaccines for poor countries, Reuters reported.

Vaccine alliance GAVI, a coordinator of the COVAX scheme, said India was given a big allocation early because India approved the vaccine for emergency use even before the World Health Organization (WHO) did. 

India has reported the third-highest number of Covid-19 cases in the world at more than 12 million infections, with over 56,000 cases reported in the last 24 hours.

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