Brazil, Saudi Arabia and Morocco ‘told of delay in Covid jabs from India’

The Serum Institute of India (SII) has told Brazil, Saudi Arabia and Morocco that further supplies of the Oxford/AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine will be delayed because of surging demand at home and work on capacity expansion, a source with direct knowledge of the matter said.

India, the world’s biggest vaccine maker, is being criticised domestically for donating or selling more doses than it administers at home, despite reporting the most number of coronavirus infections after the US and Brazil.

India is in the midst of a second surge in cases, taking its total to about 11.6m. The latest delays, first reported by the Times of India, came to light days after the UK said it would have to slow its Covid-19 vaccine programme next month because SII was likely to deliver doses later than expected.

SII has supplied half of the 10m doses the UK has recently ordered.

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

Representatives for the countries did not immediately say whether they had agreed to a revised delivery schedule.

SII, the single biggest maker of vaccines, declined to comment. It has partnerships 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 100m doses by April or May, from 60m to 70m now.

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 on the UK company’s behalf.

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

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