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Waiting for vaccines in New Delhi. Photo: Sonu Mehta/Hindustan Times via Getty

Exports of the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine from the world's largest vaccine manufacturer, the Serum Institute of India, have been paused as India grapples with a new spike in cases, Reuters reports.

Why it matters: India hasn't exported any doses at all over the past week, according to foreign ministry data — a worrying sign for the COVAX initiative, which aims to send vaccines all over the world and is relying heavily on Indian-made vaccines.

The big picture: India is one of the world's four primary vaccine producers. Only one of those, China, is not currently restricting exports or discussing doing so.

  • The U.S. isn't exporting any doses and the EU is now debating export curbs.

India had exported 65% of the doses it produced as of last week, according to Airfinity, a science information and analytics company.

  • The Indian government has been engaging in vaccine diplomacy — donating doses to kickstart vaccination campaigns in the Caribbean, for example — while Indian companies have contracts to send doses all over the world, including to developing countries.
  • But Serum Institute CEO Adar Poonawalla said last month that he'd been "directed to prioritize the huge needs of India."

Driving the news: Calls to focus on vaccinating India are growing louder amid a sharp rise in cases this month.

  • The spike is particularly discouraging because an unexpected decline in infections beginning last fall had led to hopes that Indian cities could be approaching herd immunity.
  • Public health authorities say immunity may be less widespread than had been hoped, or the virus could be spreading in communities that were less affected by previous waves.
  • It's not yet clear how big a role new variants are playing.

What to watch: India's government is placing new emphasis on plans to vaccinate 70% of the population of 1.38 billion. That could have major implications for the global vaccine supply.

Go deeper

Mar 25, 2021 - Health

AstraZeneca issues new Phase 3 data for COVID vaccine, confirming safety and efficacy

Photo: WPA Pool / Getty Images

AstraZeneca said Wednesday that a primary analysis of its Phase 3 trial data confirmed its coronavirus vaccine's "safety" with a 76% efficacy rate against symptomatic COVID.

Flashback: The company reported on Monday that a U.S. trial found its vaccine 79% effective, but faced backlash after NIAID said Tuesday it may have included information that provided an "incomplete view of the efficacy data" in its U.S. results.

Mar 24, 2021 - Health

7 in 10 older Americans have had at least one dose of a COVID vaccine

Photo: Getty Images

Seven out of 10 people across the U.S. ages 65 and older — totaling 38 million — have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Why it matters: Older adults are among the most vulnerable to the virus and those in long-term care facilities have been recommended for priority vaccinations.