Several Asian countries scrambled to find alternative source for COVID-19 inoculations on Tuesday after export restrictions by manufacturer India left a World Health Organization-backed global vaccine sharing program short of supplies.
South Korea, Indonesia and the Philippines are among the countries to be hit by shipment delays to vaccines they have been promised under the COVAX program, which was created mainly to ensure supplies for poorer countries.
“Our planned increase daily vaccinations will be affected,” Carlito Galvez, Philippines’ vaccination chief told the reporters.
India, the world’s biggest vaccine maker, put a temporary hold on exports of AstraZeneca’s vaccine being manufactured by the Serum Institute of India (SII), as officials focus on meeting rising domestic demand.
The Serum Institute was due to deliver 90 million doses to COVAX over March and April and, while it was not immediately clear how many would be diverted for domestic use, program facilitators warned that shipment delays were inevitable.
“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, head of South Korea’s COVID-19 vaccination task force team said.
India has not provided details on the length of its export curb but UNICEF, a distributing partner of COVAX, said at the weekend that deliveries are to resume by May.
India’s decision is the latest in a series of setbacks for the COVAX facility, relied on by 64 poorer countries, after production glitches and a lack of funding contribution from wealthy nations.