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COVID-19 update | India's Serum to delay further vaccine shipments to Brazil, Morocco, Saudi: Source

The news comes as India, the world’s biggest vaccine maker, is being criticised domestically for donating or selling more doses than inoculations conducted at home, despite reporting the most number of coronavirus infections after the United States and Brazil.

March 24, 2021 / 10:31 AM IST

The Serum Institute of India (SII) has told Brazil, Saudi Arabia and Morocco that further supplies of the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine will be delayed due to surging demand at home and as it works through a capacity expansion, a source with direct knowledge of the matter told Reuters.

The news comes as India, the world’s biggest vaccine maker, is being criticised domestically for donating or selling more doses than inoculations conducted at home, despite reporting the most number of coronavirus infections after the United States and Brazil.


India is currently seeing a second surge of cases, taking its total to about 11.6 million.


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The latest delays, first reported by the Times of India daily, came to light days after Britain said it would have to slow its COVID-19 vaccine roll-out next month as SII was likely to deliver more doses later than expected.


SII has supplied half of the 10 million doses recently ordered by Britain.

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COVID-19 Vaccine

Frequently Asked Questions

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How does a vaccine work?

A vaccine works by mimicking a natural infection. A vaccine not only induces immune response to protect people from any future COVID-19 infection, but also helps quickly build herd immunity to put an end to the pandemic. Herd immunity occurs when a sufficient percentage of a population becomes immune to a disease, making the spread of disease from person to person unlikely. The good news is that SARS-CoV-2 virus has been fairly stable, which increases the viability of a vaccine.

How many types of vaccines are there?

There are broadly four types of vaccine — one, a vaccine based on the whole virus (this could be either inactivated, or an attenuated [weakened] virus vaccine); two, a non-replicating viral vector vaccine that uses a benign virus as vector that carries the antigen of SARS-CoV; three, nucleic-acid vaccines that have genetic material like DNA and RNA of antigens like spike protein given to a person, helping human cells decode genetic material and produce the vaccine; and four, protein subunit vaccine wherein the recombinant proteins of SARS-COV-2 along with an adjuvant (booster) is given as a vaccine.

What does it take to develop a vaccine of this kind?

Vaccine development is a long, complex process. Unlike drugs that are given to people with a diseased, vaccines are given to healthy people and also vulnerable sections such as children, pregnant women and the elderly. So rigorous tests are compulsory. History says that the fastest time it took to develop a vaccine is five years, but it usually takes double or sometimes triple that time.

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Brazil has already received 4 million doses from SII, Saudi Arabia 3 million doses and Morocco 7 million, according to India's foreign ministry here. The three countries had ordered 20 million each.


Reuters could not immediately contact representatives for the countries or determine if they had agreed to a revised delivery schedule.


SII, the single-biggest maker of vaccines, declined to comment. It has partnered with AstraZeneca, the Gates Foundation and the Gavi vaccine alliance to make up to a billion doses for poorer countries.


The source, who declined to be identified, said SII was working on expanding its monthly production to 100 million doses by April/May, from 60 million to 70 million now, suggesting supplies could improve then.


SII was originally supposed to sell vaccines only to middle- and low-income countries, mainly in Asia and Africa, but production issues at other AstraZeneca facilities forced it to ship to many other countries as well on the British company’s behalf.

India has so far donated 8 million doses and sold nearly 52 million doses to a total of 75 countries, mainly the AstraZeneca shot made by SII. India has administered more than 44 million doses since starting its immunisation campaign in the middle of January.

Reuters
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