Downing Street has said that the UK does not have “surplus doses” of vaccines to send to India as the nation struggles to cope with a deadly surge of coronavirus infections.
The Foreign Office said 200 ventilators from Britain’s surplus medical supplies arrived in Delhi on Tuesday in the first shipment since Boris Johnson pledged support to India.
The assistance for the country’s health system will be much welcomed as it struggles to deal with a surge in 320,000 new cases on Tuesday and 2771 reported deaths.
But India is also reportedly struggling to produce and deliver vaccines quick enough, as a wave of cases is driven by highly virulent new strains.
Asked if the UK would send vaccines to India, Downing Street noted that the Government committed to send excess doses to other nations through the Covax initiative.
“Right now we are moving through the UK prioritisation list for our domestic rollout and we don’t have surplus doses, but we will keep this under review,” the Prime Minister’s official spokesman said.
Asked if the Government would cancel an order of five million AstraZeneca doses from India, the spokesman noted the “deeply concerning” situation in India and added: “Our priority right now is supporting the Indian government and the health authorities there to deal with the crisis.”
Johnson had been due to visit India for a summit with Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Monday but was forced to cancel the trip last week due to the worsening situation.
With Indian hospitals experiencing oxygen shortages, the Foreign Office said 95 oxygen concentrators were also in the shipment that departed the UK on Sunday.
Later this week, a further 400 of the machines are expected to arrive later.
UK foreign secretary Dominic Raab tweeted: “Good to see the first of our medical supplies have now arrived in India and will be deployed where they are needed most.
“No one is safe until we are all safe. International collaboration is key to fighting this global threat.”
Joe Biden’s White House was moving to share raw materials for the AstraZeneca vaccine by diverting some US orders to the Serum Institute of India.