India is blocking exports of AstraZeneca vaccines to use for itself, disrupting vaccine rollouts in other countries

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A man applies finishing touches to graffiti representing a vaccine in Kolkata, India.

  • India blocked exports of AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine made there, perhaps for months.
  • It is likely to disrupt the rollout of vaccine to poorer countries via the COVAX scheme.
  • India’s biggest vaccine-maker also delayed recent batches meant for the UK and Brazil.
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India has blocked all major exports of the AstraZeneca vaccine to boost domestic supply, the latest move by a country to stop doses from leaving its borders.

This could disrupt the rollout of vaccines to poorer countries via the COVAX scheme, which had been counting on Indian-made doses.

The Serum Institute of India is a major provider of vaccines to COVAX, the WHO-backed initiative aimed at fair distribution of the vaccine to poorer countries.

The Institute said that it was told to halt all exports of the vaccine, in a move that could last “two to three months,” the Financial Times reported on Thursday.

Reuters reported that India will also likely delay delivery of the doses expected by COVAX for March and April “following a setback in securing export licenses,” according to an email from UNICEF.

The Serum Institute of India has promised 200 million doses to COVAX, half of which are the AstraZeneca vaccine, but for now has only dispatched 17.7 million, the BBC reported on Thursday.

The move is “due to the increased demand of Covid-19 vaccines in India,” a spokesperson for Gavi, The Vaccine Alliance, told AFP.

This news comes as India is seeing a sharp increase in COVID-19 cases and is ramping up its vaccination rollout.

The government announced on Tuesday that it would expand vaccination to everyone over the age of 45 from April 1.

Covishield, India’s local name for the AstraZeneca vaccine, is one of two vaccines approved in the country. The other is Covaxin, which is manufacturers by Bharat Biotech.

The Serum Institute of India is the world’s largest vaccine manufacturer, and produces both Covishield and the Novovax vaccine.

India has exported over 60 million doses of vaccine to 76 countries, most of which are AstraZeneca vaccine, the BBC reported.

It has also promised more than 900 million doses of the vaccine in bilateral commercial deals, the BBC reported.

The move prompts questions about potential supply issues.

The Serum Institute of India has recently delayed delivery of 5 million doses of AstraZeneca doses meant for the UK.

Brazil, Saudi Arabia, and Morocco were also told to expect delays, the Times of India reported on Sunday due to a fire in a manufacturing facility in January.

The Serum Institute of India and the WHO have previously warned that manufacturers of COVID-19 vaccines face a shortage of raw materials essential for vaccine manufacturing, in part due to a US ban on export of some products.

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Russia plans to vaccinate 1 in 10 people worldwide this year with the Sputnik vaccine, a top official said

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Russian President Vladimir Putin.

  • Russia wants 700 million people to be vaccinated with Sputnik V this year, a top official said.
  • India, China, and South Korea will be the biggest producers, the CEO of the Russian Direct Investment fund said.
  • Russia’s Sputnik COVID-19 vaccine has been approved in more than 40 countries so far.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Russia plans to immunize nearly one in 10 people on the planet this year with its Sputnik V vaccine, a top official said.

“We have capacity to provide the vaccine to 700 million people outside Russia this year,” Kirill Dmitriev, CEO of the Russian Direct Investment Fund (RDIF), told Bloomberg Wednesday.

The state-run fund, founded in 2011, supported the development of Sputnik V and is in charge of its roll-out to foreign countries.

“The biggest producers will be India, China, and South Korea,” Dmitriev said, adding that the RDIF has production agreements in 10 countries.

He said current output levels of the shot were “substantial,” but Russia is banking on an “exponential growth” in domestic production to increase the number of shots.

According to the Bloomberg vaccine tracker, more than 5 million people have been vaccinated with Russia’s coronavirus vaccine, which studies suggest is more than 90% effective.

Dmitriev told Bloomberg that between 40 and 50 million people around the world should get Sputnik V by late June. He didn’t explain why demand for the shot would increase so quickly after that.

Read more: Shipping the COVID-19 vaccines is creating huge business opportunities for previously unknown players – here are 10 companies that could become household names

So far, Russia’s vaccine has been approved in more than 40 countries across Latin America, Eastern Europe, Asia, and Africa. Many of these countries don’t have access to the shots made by Western firms such as Moderna and Pfizer.

Dmitriev told Insider on February 2 that Sputnik V probably wouldn’t be available in the US or UK in the near future. He said he was only moderately interested in sending it to Europe.

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Seattle health workers raced to inject 1,600 coronavirus vaccine doses in the middle of the night to whomever they could find after a freezer failed

COVID 19 vaccine
  • A freezer mishap resulted in a frantic effort to administer more than 1,600 vaccines overnight in Seattle, The Washington Post reported.
  • Hundreds of people stood in the street in their robes and pajamas after Seattle’s Swedish Health Services tweeted at 11 p.m. that it had vaccines that were about to expire within hours.
  • Workers administered all the shots on time, and no doses went to waste.
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Staff and volunteers at a Seattle health facility scrambled to inject 1,600 people with coronavirus vaccines that were rapidly expiring after a freezer failed, The Washington Post reported. 

The freezer malfunction meant the Moderna vaccines would expire by the morning of January 29, so workers at Seattle’s Swedish Health Services rushed to vaccinate as many people as they could. Within the last 15 minutes, before the shots expired, workers administered dozens of shots mostly on the street. They reportedly injected the last shot at 3:45 a.m. on the dot.

At around 11 p.m. on Thursday night, the medical center tweeted an urgent message saying it had hundreds of available vaccine appointments in the next few hours before the doses expired. Hundred people showed up in their pajamas and robes, the NBC affiliate KING-TV reported. 

Those in line were calling up people they knew to get them down to get a shot, the Post added. 

We were literally like … who can get people here? People started texting and calling and we were just counting down,” Kevin Brooks, the chief operating officer of Swedish Health Services told the Post. “Thirty-seven. Thirty-five. Thirty-three … People were showing up and running down the hall.”

Brooks told KING-TV that all available appointments were filled within 35 to 40 minutes.

The vaccines, which were being stored at Kaiser Permanente, began to thaw after a refrigeration issue impacting Swedish’s vaccines and those that belonged to UW Medicine, the Post reported. 

Jenny Brackett, an assistant administrator at UW Medicine, said when she learned of the freezer mishap she was inspired by another recent instance where vaccines almost went to waste. Earlier that week, after getting stuck in a snowstorm, health workers in Oregon vaccinated stranded drivers before their remaining coronavirus vaccine doses expired. 

While those vaccines were meant to go to other people, “the snow meant those doses wouldn’t make it to them before they expired,” the Josephine County Public Health Department, in Oregon said. 

Brackett told the Post: “When I got the call they’re like, ‘It’s kind of like our snow moment.'”

Read more: Coronavirus variants threaten to upend pandemic progress. Here’s how 4 top vaccine makers are fighting back.

Brackett said she was going through the long line seeking out people who were 65 or older so they could be prioritized. 

“I was a little worried that the line maybe would not be too thrilled,” she said. “You know, that I am letting others go first. But that wasn’t the response I had at all. Actually, the crowd kind of cheered.

While not everyone who was vaccinated was in the state’s top priority category, the center said they would still be eligible to receive their second dose, and they’re just happy nothing went to waste. 

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