India’s Vaccine exports are guided by good diplomacy and good epidemiology

Synopsis:

The vaccine exports by India have not obstructed its efforts in tackling the Covid-19 outbreak. Rather it is a strategy guided by good diplomacy, good economics and good epidemiology. That is immensely beneficial for the country. 

Background:
  • As of May 11, India exported 663.698 lakh vaccine doses to foreign countries. Out of this, 16% was sent as aid, 54% as commercial supplies and 30% as part of WHO’s COVAX program.
  • These exports have drawn criticism from various experts. As they believe that exports are creating vaccine shortages in India. However, there exist multiple reasons which induced the government to export vaccines.
Reasons behind vaccine exports:
  • Firstly, out of the 107.15 lakh doses sent as aid, 78.5 lakh doses (73.26 per cent) have been sent to just seven neighbouring countries. This is good epidemiology. As it is essential to vaccinate India’s immediate neighbours for its own pandemic control measures.
  • Secondly, approximately 14% of commercial supplies are sent to the U.K. India not only has a legal duty but also a moral duty to supply the vaccine. As the Covishield vaccine is manufactured by India based on a licence granted by Oxford – AstraZeneca partnership.
  • Thirdly, two lakh doses are sent as aid to the UN peacekeeping force. This will help in the vaccination of 6600 Indians deployed there. Similarly, 12.5% of commercial supplies are sent to Saudi Arabia. Saudi Arabia possesses a large Indian diaspora.
  • Fourthly, there is an international obligation to supply the vaccines under COVAX initiative of WHO. 
    • The COVAX program aims to ensure rapid, fair and equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines for all the countries around the world.
    • Being a participant, India is itself entitled to receive nearly 97 million doses of Covishield through the COVAX facility at affordable prices.
  • Fifthly, vaccine production requires imports of various inputs from multiple countries that are part of the complex supply chain network. Hence, the suppliers of raw materials will also deserve some portion of the final product.

This is why India’s vaccine exports are considered as good diplomacy, good economics and good epidemiology.

Various steps to enhance vaccine availability in India:
  • The government has provided support of approximately Rs 200 crore to boost vaccine production. This will help to improve the current manufacturing rate of Covaxin by 10 times in the coming months. Currently, 10 million doses are produced in a month.
  • The government has also provided special regulatory dispensation. This allows emergency use authorisation of foreign-made Covid-19 vaccines. This facility will be available only for Covid-19 vaccines approved for emergency use by credible foreign regulators.

Going forward, India can make an open commitment to supply a certain percentage of production as commercial/COVAX exports. This allows other countries to plan and execute their own vaccination drives. Further, it will be in consonance with good diplomacy, good economics and good epidemiology.

 

Source: The Indian Express 

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