KEY POINTS

  • India's COVID-19 epicenter reported nearly 55,000 cases Wednesday
  • Many of the state's vaccination centres are being shut 
  • ​India may curb exports to middle- and low-income countries

India's financial hub of Mumbai and the larger Maharashtra state are left with just enough vaccine supply to last two days, raising the possibility of the world's largest vaccine manufacturer further curbing exports to middle- and low-income countries.

India was approaching 13 million cases as of Thursday, closely tracking Brazil, the second-most affected country after the United States. The South Asian country reported a record of more than 115,000 daily new infections on Wednesday.

Almost half of those cases were reported from Maharashtra, prompting the state government to halt all non-essential services and shutting down malls and restaurants through April.

A worker paints the wall of a Covid-19 vaccination centre in Mumbai on January 15, 2021, a day before India starts the first phase of its vaccination programme A worker paints the wall of a Covid-19 vaccination centre in Mumbai on January 15, 2021, a day before India starts the first phase of its vaccination programme Photo: AFP / Indranil MUKHERJEE

State health minister Rajesh Tope said on Thursday that the administration had stopped vaccination in many districts as it was left with limited supply. Tope's SOS prompted the federal government to increase the state's share from 7.5 lakh dosages to 17 lakhs.

"Even this is less because we need 40 lakh vaccine doses a week," Tope said. "Healthcare workers at many centres are forced to send back people saying the vaccine has not arrived yet."

The crisis led to a political slugfest when India’s federal Health Minister Harsh Vardhan said Maharashtra and some other sates were “trying to divert attention from their poor vaccination efforts by just continuously shifting the goal-posts."

Medical staff work inside a Covid-19 vaccination centre in Mumbai on January 15, 2021 amid concern a new virus wave might hit, fuelled by a string of recent mass religious festivals Medical staff work inside a Covid-19 vaccination centre in Mumbai on January 15, 2021 amid concern a new virus wave might hit, fuelled by a string of recent mass religious festivals Photo: AFP / Punit PARANJPE

Other states, including Andhra Pradesh, are also running low on shots, Economic Times reported.

The shortage threatens the supply of vaccines to other countries which are incapable of signing procurement contracts independently. Bloomberg reported last month that India planned to slow down the exports to focus on its own requirements. Pune-based Serum Institute of India, the world's biggest vaccine manufacturer, is a key supplier to a global initiative that aims to distribute nearly 2 billion doses to middle and low-income countries.

Despite the export curbs, the domestic demand is expected to surpass supply.  

Amidst the vaccine shortage, Prime Minister Modi announced Thursday that he had received his second vaccine shot in New Delhi. He also urged all the citizens to get registered for the country's vaccination program.