India seeks up to 500 million coronavirus vaccine doses by July


NEW DELHI (Reuters) – India hopes to receive up to 500 million doses of coronavirus vaccine by July to inoculate about 250 million people, health minister Harsh Vardhan said on Sunday, as infections in the world’s second-worst affected country continue to surge.

India’s has recorded some 6.55 million infections, with 75,829 in the past 24 hours, while COVID-19-related deaths have totalled 101,782, health ministry data showed.

“There is a high-level expert body going into all aspects of vaccines,” Vardhan wrote on Twitter. “Our rough estimate and the target would be to receive and utilise 400 to 500 million doses covering (200 million-250 million) people by July 2021.”

Serum Institute of India and private companies have been teaming up with organizations from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to U.S. drug developer Novavax Inc in a scramble to secure vaccines for the country of 1.3 billion people.

India has set up committees to look into various aspects of the vaccine supply chain, including availability timelines for various vaccines, while obtaining commitments from manufacturers to ensure the maximum doses are available, Vardhan said.

He said the federal government is committed to taking all measures to ensure “fair and equitable” distribution of vaccines once they are ready.

The South Asian nation, second only to the United States in caseload, has scope for higher infections as a large chunk of the population remains unexposed to the virus, a survey showed on Tuesday.

To prioritise the distribution of coronavirus vaccines, the health ministry aims to prepare a list of key personnel, such as frontline health workers, by the end of the month.

(Reporting by Nidhi Verma; Editing by William Mallard)

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