India, April 20 (Reuters) – India will waive its 10 percent customs duty on imported COVID-19 vaccines, a senior government official told Reuters on Monday, as it tries to boost supplies to counter a dramatic surge in coronavirus cases. Imports of Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine are due to arrive soon and the government has also urged Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson and Johnson to sell their products to India.
The official, who declined to be named, also said the government was considering allowing private entities to import approved vaccines for sale on the open market without government intervention. They could also be given the freedom to set pricing, he added.
The Indian government currently regulates the sale and purchase of all COVID-19 shots in the country. A finance ministry spokesman did not immediately respond to an email seeking comment outside business hours.
Other South Asian countries, including Nepal and Pakistan, as well as Latin American nations such as Argentina and Brazil levy vaccine import tariffs ranging between 10 percent and 20 percent.
New COVID-19 infections and deaths in India have jumped by record numbers for days, with hospitals running short of beds, oxygen, and key medicines. Total deaths have swelled to nearly 179,000 and cases have climbed above 15 million, the world’s second-highest tally behind the United States. The government has now decided to open vaccinations for all adults from May 1.