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India suffers vaccine shortages as virus surges

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More than 700 million people across India were facing coronavirus vaccine shortages Thursday, local media reported, as infection numbers hit yet another daily record. Case numbers had eased in India but a second wave of the virus has since returned with a vengeance, with more than 126,000 new infections recorded in the past 24 hours, a new record.

Several regions have tightened curbs on activity while Maharashtra, the current epicentre of India’s epidemic and home to megacity Mumbai, is set to enter a lockdown at the weekend.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi received his second shot on Thursday, tweeting that vaccines are “among the few ways we have to defeat the virus”. He urged others to follow his lead by getting vaccinated.

India’s vast vaccination programme is reportedly experiencing problems having administered 87 million shots so far in a population of 1.3 billion people.

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According to the Times of India, 10 states have stocks that will last only three or four more days, including Uttar Pradesh, home to about 200 million people, as well as Bihar and West Bengal.

In Maharashtra, the state health minister issued a dire warning on Wednesday, saying supplies would run out in three days unless replenished. The head of India’s Serum Institute, the world’s largest vaccine maker by volume, said on Tuesday that production capacity was “very stressed” and it called for financial help from the government.

Poorer countries, as well as some rich nations, have relied heavily on Serum for supplies of the AstraZeneca vaccine but last month New Delhi put the brakes on exports to prioritise domestic needs.

Chief executive Adar Poonawalla said the firm had been sent a legal notice by AstraZeneca about delivery delays, but Serum would only resume exports in the next two months “once the situation in India cools off”, he added.

Total coronavirus cases in India are nearing 13 million and there have been 170,000 deaths from the virus, although the per capita rate of infection in the world’s second-most populous country remains low compared to other nations.

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Source: eNCA