EXCLUSIVE India delays big exports of AstraZeneca shot as infections surge, say sources

NEW DELHI, March 24 (Reuters) - India has put a temporary hold on all major exports of the AstraZeneca (AZN.L) coronavirus vaccine made by the Serum Institute of India (SII) to meet demand at home as infections rise, two sources told Reuters.

The move will also affect supplies to the GAVI/WHO-backed COVAX vaccine-sharing facility through which more than 180 countries are expected to get doses, one of the sources said.

COVAX has so far received 17.7 million AstraZeneca doses from SII, of the 60.5 million doses India has shipped in total, and many countries are relying on the programme to immunise their citizens.

There has been no vaccine export from India since Thursday, the foreign ministry's website shows, as the country expands its own immunisation effort.

"Everything else has taken a backseat, for the time being at least," said one of the sources. Both sources had direct knowledge of the matter, but declined to be named as the discussions are not public.

"No exports, nothing till the time the India situation stabilises. The government won't take such a big chance at the moment when so many need to be vaccinated in India."

India's foreign ministry and SII, the world's biggest vaccine manufacturer, did not immediately reply to requests for comment.

Reporting by Krishna N. Das; additional reporting by Allasdair Pal, Euan Rocha and Neha Arora; editing by Barbara Lewis

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