The Serum Institute of India (STI), the world’s largest vaccine manufacturer, has asked countries awaiting vaccines against Covid-19 to be “patients” after being ordered to prioritize “India’s enormous needs”.
STI “was oriented to prioritize the enormous needs of India and, in conjunction with that balance, the needs of the rest of the world”, wrote the head of the Indian vaccine manufacturer, Adar Poonawalla, on Sunday, on the social network Twitter. The official did not clarify where the order came from or whether these instructions are new.
Dear countries & governments, as you await #COVISHIELD supplies, I humbly request you to please be patient, @SerumInstIndia has been directed to prioritise the huge needs of India and along with that balance the needs of the rest of the world. We are trying our best.
– Adar Poonawalla (@adarpoonawalla) February 21, 2021
Responsible for producing 60% of the world’s vaccines before the pandemic, STI is producing hundreds of millions of doses of the Anglo-Swedish vaccine AstraZeneca, known locally as Covishield, at its facilities in Pune, western India, and has already sent millions abroad, including to Brazil.
The Indian manufacturer, which has received orders from several countries, including Canada, also plans to supply 200 million doses under the Covax platform, an initiative by the World Health Organization (WHO) to guarantee access to vaccines for the poorest countries.
India began a massive vaccination campaign on January 16, having so far vaccinated around 11 million people, according to the Indian Ministry of Health.
The Indian Government had set a goal to vaccinate around 300 million people by July, in a country with 1.3 billion inhabitants, but the campaign suffered major delays, not because of a lack of vaccines, but due to a lack of candidates. According to the Hindustan Times, only 4% of the approximately 191,000 healthcare workers received the second dose of the vaccine one month after the first, the period recommended by the manufacturer for the second inoculation, although it can be extended to six weeks. .
Mistrust of vaccines and the huge decrease in the number of cases in the country may explain the population’s lack of interest, according to experts interviewed by Time magazine. The country has dramatically reduced the progression of the disease in recent months, after reaching the highest infection rate in mid-September 2020, with 97,894 contagions in a single day. In the latest daily balance sheet, India recorded only 14,199 cases, in addition to 83 deaths, according to data from the Indian Ministry of Health, having recorded an average of 13,000 daily cases in the last week.
Despite this, in the past two weeks the number of cases has increased in Maharashtra, the Indian state most hit by the pandemic, which has seen the number of daily infections double, now averaging more than 5,000 infections. On the last day, that Indian state registered almost seven thousand new infections, practically half of the total of the country. Still, less than 36% of people registered to be vaccinated on February 11 in that state’s capital, Nagpur, performed at health centers, according to the Times of India daily.
Since the start of the pandemic, India has counted more than 11 million cases of the new coronavirus, remaining as the second with more infections, behind the United States, which in the last balance had more than 28.1 million. With a total of 156,385 deaths, India is the fourth country in the world with the most deaths, after the United States, Brazil and Mexico, according to the independent count of the American University Johns Hopkins. The country currently has 150,055 active cases of the disease. The Covid-19 pandemic caused at least 2,461,254 deaths worldwide, resulting from more than 111 million cases of infection, according to a report made by the French agency AFP.
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