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India to fund capacity boost at Serum Institute as vacc...



India to fund capacity boost at Serum Institute as vaccines run short

A nurse prepares a dose of a coronavirus vaccine at the the covid -19 vaccination center at Parirenyatwa Hopsital in Harare, Zimbabwe, 31 March 2021. There has been a huge interest and increase in the number of people, who now want to get the coronavirus vaccine after an initial reluctance because there was lack of enough information. (Photo: EPA-EFE/AARON UFUMELI)
By Reuters
19 Apr 2021 0

NEW DELHI, April 19 (Reuters) - India is set to accept the Serum Institute of India's (SII) request for a 30 billion rupee ($400 million) grant to boost its capacity to make the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine, a government source with knowledge of the matter told Reuters.

* Serum Institute seeks 30 bln rupee grant from govt

* Demand for vaccines rises as cases hit record (Adds context on vaccine exports)

By Aftab Ahmed

SII, the world’s biggest vaccine maker, sought the funds to increase its monthly capacity to more than 100 million doses by the end of May, from up to 70 million currently.

“We are clear that we will give whatever support is necessary to develop and boost the availability of vaccines in the country,” the source said on Sunday, declining to be identified as he was not authorised to speak publicly on the matter.

Given the surge in domestic demand, any funding from the government is unlikely to help alleviate a slump in vaccine exports. India has delayed big shipments this month, exporting only about 2 million doses compared with 64 million doses between late January and March.

A finance ministry spokesman declined to comment. SII, which will soon also start making the Novavax COVID-19 vaccine, did not respond to a request for comment.

The Indian government is struggling to meet demand for the vaccine from many states as infections spread with record speed.

India has administered more than 112 million doses of the AstraZeneca shot so far, the most in the world, despite concerns about some people overseas developing blood clots after receiving the vaccine.

Since starting its immunisation campaign in mid-January, it has injected a total of 123 million vaccine doses, including nearly 11 million of a domestically developed shot known as Covaxin.

The government is also trying to boost output of Covaxin and has also changed rules to fast-track imports of vaccines developed by Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson and Johnson. ($1 = 74.8600 Indian rupees) (Reporting by Aftab Ahmed; Additional reporting by Krishna N. Das; Editing by Nick Macfie and Jan Harvey)

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