The Questions Surrounding COVID Vaccine Exports by India

Synopsis: The government should make sure to citizens that the COVID vaccine exports by India are not at the cost of their health.

Introduction:

Recently Minister of State in the Ministry of External Affairs stated that India is Exporting vaccines after considering the domestic and international Factors.  Further, he also mentions that India will continue to export vaccines based on the production and needs of the national vaccination programme.

Potential of India’s vaccine exports:
  1. According to Ministry of External Affairs statistics, upto April 13, India alone supplied over 65 million vaccines to 90 countries globally. This accounts for one month of India’s current COVID-19 vaccines production. Of these
    •  More than 10 million doses are sent as grants.
    • Almost 36 million on a commercial basis.
    • About 19 million under the COVAX programme.
  2. India also exports vaccines to GAVI. India is a member of Gavi’s COVAX facility. Further, India also receives other vaccines from GAVI. So, exporting vaccine to GAVI is an obligation to India.
Why India need to export vaccine?

India explained the need to export vaccine during the recent Raisina Dialogue.

  1. Our PM mentioned that Humanity as a whole must be at the centre of our thinking and action. Further, he explains India must think of the entire humanity, not merely of people with Indian boundary.
  2. Also, the Minister of External Affairs mentions “equitable access to vaccines is critically important“. Further, he also mentions that “no one will be safe till everyone is safe”.
  3. Indian PM also mentioned the concept of ‘Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam’. (the world is one family). India desires to be a good global citizen. A similar concept is also there in the Objective Resolution. (moved by Jawaharlal Nehru in the Constituent Assembly by 1946.)

So being a responsible global power, India needs to think beyond itself. So, exporting vaccine is essential as much as vaccinating Indians.

How India calculates the number of Vaccines that it exports?

Being a global citizen India needs to export vaccines but not at the cost of non-vaccinating Indians. The recent Minister of State in the Ministry of External Affairs speech mentions that it is decided based on three factors.

  1. Quantum of domestic production.
  2. The demands of the national vaccine programme
  3. Requests for vaccines manufactured in India.
Questions surrounding quantum of exporting vaccine:
  1. Despite the above factors, the export value is not clearly defined. There is an ambiguity on how these factors collectively help in the decision-making process of calculating vaccine exports. For example, If an independent judgment is based on domestic production and national vaccine programme, then only the leftover(remaining) vaccine has to be exported.
  2. Even if it is obligatory to send vaccines to the COVAX program, sovereign states can always invoke national interest to override obligations.
  3. Similarly,  the commercial contracts of the company can also get disregarded under existing laws to fulfill national interests.

So exporting vaccine is for the general foreign policy of India. But the government have to clarify to its people, that exports are not at the cost of their health.

Source: The Hindu

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