Modi Says India Is Attempting to Boost Capacity to Make Vaccines

India is attempting to boost its capacity to make vaccines, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said on Thursday, as new coronavirus cases in the world’s second-most populous nation surged to a record.

Modi made the comments during a meeting with state chief ministers to discuss ways to check the rapid rise of infections in the South Asian nation. Some states have said that they are facing a shortage of vaccines.

For Modi, who is hoping to accelerate a nascent growth in Asia’s third-largest economy after it slumped into a historic recession last year, the unfolding health crisis may further harm his international image that was dented when India curbed vaccine exports. Meanwhile, renewed restrictions to curb the pandemic are spurring public anger at the government’s failure to get ahead of the virus despite a monthslong lull.

“Efforts are being made for new vaccine development and boost manufacturing capacity,” Modi said, without giving details. India should focus on creating “micro-containment zones” to check the spread of the virus, he said.

Maharashtra, the nation’s worst-hit state, said that it only has three days of vaccines in stock, even as the country reported a new daily record of more than 126,700 cases Thursday.

India has utilized 91 million doses of vaccines, Health Minister Harsh Vardhan, said in a tweet, adding there is no shortage of inoculations. Authorities have 24 million vaccines in stock and 19 million are in the pipeline, he said.

The steep jump in infections from early February, when the country reported around 11,000 daily infections, has forced states to reinstate movement curbs and other restrictions. Maharashtra has halted all non-essential services, ordered private companies to work from home, and shut malls and restaurants through April, while the capital New Delhi has imposed a nighttime curfew.

After the country shipped or donated more than 60 million doses of Covid vaccine, India last month said it would slow down exports to focus on its own requirements. The world’s biggest vaccine manufacturer, the Serum Institute of India Ltd., is a key supplier to Covax, a program through which 2 billion vaccine doses are supposed to be distributed to middle and low-income countries, many of which can’t afford to sign procurement contracts on their own.

Domestic demand is expected to outrun supply despite those export curbs.

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