India pulled back its supply of vaccines to the rest of the world after the second wave of pandemic hit the country, resulting in acute global shortage of COVID-19 vaccines, the Biden Administration has informed the lawmakers. “When the Delta variant is raging around the world and supply is lacking globally because the Serum Institute of India pulled back hundreds of millions of vaccines that were supposed to go to COVAX because Europe is still in the throes of the pandemic, hopefully coming out of it now with light at the end of the tunnel,” USAID Administrator Samantha Power told a Congressional Committee here.
Testifying before a Congressional committee on the annual budget of the agency, Power said that the shortage is going to end soon because the United States has purchased Pfizer’s vaccine which will start to come online in August. “COVAX is in the position it's in because India has had to pull back so much supply that had been intended to go for second shots and for health workers. COVAX has found itself in this third quarter in a really difficult pinch,” she said.
That's going to change when the Pfizer doses start coming online in August, she told the lawmakers. “It's already changing for some countries because of our bilateral dose sharing of surplus vaccines. But the more doses we can bring online that can be part of the American leadership on this issue, where we single-handedly are not going to vaccinate the world, but we can mobilise the world to get it vaccinated,” she added.
Early this year, she said, they thought that they would be able to get the exact numbers, received first doses of AstraZeneca, for example, and thought that the Indian Serum Institute would be providing the second dose and then those were prohibited to export those in light of the devastation unfolding within India.
“So COVAX has found itself in this period in a very difficult spot. And when I say COVAX, it's not COVAX. It's a developing country. It's the poorest countries in the world,” Power said.