The suspension by India came as the European Union met on Thursday to consider giving member states greater scope to block vaccines being exported outside the bloc, much of which is struggling to bring infections down and ramp up immunisation campaigns.
It is not known how long the suspension will last, but health watchers say the development is likely to delay the delivery of the nation’s 2nd batch of vaccine supplies expected around the end of March and early April.
The suspension could also delay supplies to other African countries as well as several low and middle-income countries that are relying on India’s production and supply of Covishield, its own version of the AstraZeneca vaccine, manufactured under licence from AstraZeneca of the UK.
It was gathered that the suspension would apply to all vaccines including the AstraZeneca shot on which the EU had originally been relying to meet a goal of inoculating 70 percent of its adult population.
AstraZeneca’s vaccine is seen as crucial in tackling the pandemic as it is cheaper and easier to transport than rival shots.
The EU has accused the AstraZeneca drugmaker of over-selling its vaccine and unfairly favouring Britain, – a charge denied by the company.
Under the COVAX Facility sharing scheme backed by the World Health Organisation, Nigeria was allocated 16 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine out of which it received 3.92 million doses in the first allocation.