India’s move to halt the export of the AstraZeneca vaccine will probably affect the mass vaccination drive in Pakistan, as Islamabad is expected to receive at least 10 million doses of the vaccine through COVAX, a vaccine sharing initiative backed by the World Health Organisation, by June.
India, one of the largest producers of the vaccine, decided to delay the supply of vaccines to COVAX in a bid to meet its domestic demand. This move will most likely affect the vaccine supply to 64 lower-income countries, including Pakistan, which are supposed to get doses from the Serum Institute of India.
So far, India has exported more than 60 million doses but given only about 53 million to its own people, according to a report in the Indian media. Some 238.2 million doses would be distributed around the world by the end of May through the COVAX programme, which is aimed at boosting access to coronavirus jabs in poorer nations.
In response to the decision of the India government, UNICEF said that it would definitely delay the supply of vaccine to the lower-income states: “We understand that deliveries of COVID-19 vaccines to lower-income economies participating in the COVAX facility will likely face delays following a setback in securing export licences for further doses of COVID-19 vaccines produced by the Serum Institute of India (SII), expected to be shipped in March and April.”
Also, the halt of export will really hurt Pakistan, as it is one of the biggest recipients of the vaccine being made in India. Pakistan, along with Indonesia, is expected to receive at least 10 million doses of AstraZeneca by June. Currently, Pakistan is relying on the Chinese vaccine, Sinopharm, to inoculate its elderly population and health workers.