explained | Why did India agree to resume the export of vaccines?
How does the vaccine sharing platform depend on Serum Institute for the distribution of Covishield in other countries?
The story so far: With nearly 85 crore of COVID-19 vaccine doses distributed in India so far, Health Minister Mansukh Mandaviya announced earlier this week his intention to resume export of the vaccine made in India from October. , within the framework of a program called “Vaccine Maitri”, to foreign countries as well as COVAX. The latest supply forecast for the global vaccine-sharing platform, COVAX, is that it will have distributed 1.4 billion doses by the end of 2021, less than the 2 billion doses it was targeting. earlier this year. As of September 15, only 280.5 million doses had been distributed via COVAX.
How many doses has India supplied overseas?
According to data from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, as of May 31, 6.6 crore of doses of locally produced vaccines had left India in the form of subsidies, exports or supplies to COVAX. The last expedition took place on March 29. Almost 99% of the vaccines provided were from Covishield.
Why has India stopped vaccine exports?
India’s vaccination campaign began in January for healthcare workers and has gradually spread to people over the age of 60. Until February, adoption was slow. The first two months were also marked by a downward trend (which started in September 2020) in new infections every day. By February, the daily count had fallen to a record low of less than 10,000 – something not seen since June 2020. Some government-backed epidemiological forecasts as well as political messages began to give the impression that India had probably passed the worst of the pandemic. . However, in mid-February, several districts in Maharashtra began to report a sharp increase, and by March the rise was rapid enough that the public increasingly demanded that vaccines be available for free. India had yet to approve the overseas-made vaccines, and although Bharat Biotech’s Covaxin was approved ahead of the results of its ongoing Phase 3 trials, there was too little available to the public. public. At the end of March, India imposed “restrictions” on Covishield’s export and stopped it in mid-April.
What is the role of Covishield in COVAX?
The Pune-based Serum Institute of India (SII) was to be the mainstay of COVAX. Along with the unexpected increase in demand in India after the second wave, a fire at its factory in January kept it from meeting its stated production target of 100 million doses per month and was languishing at around 60 million doses. . Covishield’s rapid production was aided by a $ 300 million investment in SII, in November 2020, by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to offset the risk of producing billions of doses of vaccine and in case it turns out ineffective. However, with the second wave and export restrictions, COVAX and its member-partners have expressed concern in recent months that SII’s inability to produce means COVAX’s commitment to supply two billion doses by the first quarter of 2022 would be impacted. African Union countries are expected to receive 470 million doses by the end of 2021, but the forecast is 25% lower than expected in June 2021.
What has changed now?
Regarding the resumption of exports, India said only “oversupply” will be eligible for exports. Vaccine production has nearly doubled since April and could reach more than 30 crore in doses by October, freeing up supplies. Several factors favor India. There is a steady decline in new cases, more than half of adults have received at least one dose, and despite reports of fully vaccinated people catching the infection, there is no worrying increase in serious illness or disease. of mortality. However, Covishield continues to be India’s vaccine mainstay. The supply of Covaxin has increased, but it still only accounts for around 11% of total vaccine production in India. Millions of doses of Sputnik V, Sputnik Light, Corbevax, and ZyCoV-D are expected to be available in the coming months, but so far none have started hitting the shelves. With almost 100 crore in doses needed to fully immunize all adults, it is unlikely that all will be fully immunized by the end of the year. For this, one crore dose should be administered each day. India’s average daily rate is now around 70 lakh doses.