India opens up immunization to more people, COVID-19 vaccine exports to dwindle

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India opened up its coronavirus inoculation program to people above 45 on Thursday as infections surge, which will delay vaccine exports from the world’s biggest maker of the drug.

The country, with the most number of reported COVID-19 cases after the US and Brazil, has so far injected 64 million doses and exported nearly as many. This has raised criticism at home as India’s per-capita vaccination figure is much lower than many countries.

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The government has previously said that people over 45 can register for inoculation from April 1.

India initially focused on front-like workers, the elderly and those suffering from other health conditions, unlike some richer countries that have made all their adults eligible to get inoculated.

New Delhi says it is working towards that goal, and Health Minister Harsh Vardhan tweeted that there would be no vaccine shortage in the country as it opens up the vaccination program.

“center to continually replenish states’ supplies,” he said on Twitter. “Avoid overstocking and under stocking.”

India has already decided to delay big vaccine exports for now, including to the WHO-backed global vaccine alliance COVAX.

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It is currently using the AstraZeneca vaccine and a shot developed at home by Bharat Biotech, which is struggling to step up supplies. India’s drug regulator is soon expected to approve Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine.

India has reported more than 12 million infections, including a big surge last month. Deaths stand at more than 162,400.

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