A vaccine crisis in India.

Serum Institute workers packing coronavirus vaccines in January.
Serum Institute workers packing coronavirus vaccines in January. Credit…Atul Loke for The New York Times

The Serum Institute, the world’s largest vaccine maker, had vowed to take a leading role in India’s fight against Covid-19, and the country’s prime minister, Narendra Modi, had pledged its vaccines would “save humanity.”

Now, those promises have fallen apart.

Serum is failing to uphold export deals worth hundreds of millions of dollars. India largely stopped vaccine exports as its crisis intensified. AstraZeneca has since served Serum a legal notice over delivery delays, and other suffering countries are scrambling to find alternatives.

“We need to take care of our own, like America has taken care of their own, Europe is taking care of their own,” Adar Poonawalla, Serum’s chief executive, told The Times.

But even though the company is contributing 90 percent of India’s vaccine supply, it is still falling short. A fire delayed plans to ramp up production, limiting the company’s output to 72 million doses a month in a nation of 1.4 billion people.

A new development: A potentially fatal fungal infection, mucormycosisis emerging among India’s Covid patients. Some experts attribute the infections to an increased use of steroids, while others say they crop up when families apply oxygen therapy at home without the proper hygiene.

Public and private grief: Relatives broadcast funeral pyres across oceans, news sites play videos of India’s cremation grounds and neighbors record the flames as a rebuke to the government. But as the fires become spectacle, many feel the pandemic has stripped the final rites of their dignity.

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