After taking the lead on Hydroxychloroquine (HCQ), India has taken the lead on coronavirus vaccines. From developing, manufacturing to becoming a key supplier, New Delhi will be playing a critical role in the global inoculation program against the coronavirus.
Many countries have requested India either on a government-to-government (G2G) basis or by directly placing orders with the vaccine developers who are manufacturing the doses in India.
The other option for most low and middle-income countries is to source vaccines through the GAVI-COVAX alliance, where all the partner countries who manufacture the vaccine would give part of the doses to this alliance to make vaccines available to 92 such countries that fall in this category.
Amid all the global clamour for coronavirus vaccines, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Saturday had reiterated the role India intends to play in order to “save humanity” by providing doses of the two Indian-manufactured vaccines that have been cleared for emergency use, Covishield and Covaxin, to the rest of the world.
“India used to import PPE kits, masks, ventilators and testing kits from outside but today our nation is self-reliant. Today, India is ready to save humanity with two ‘Made in India’ coronavirus vaccines,” Prime Minister Modi told the Indian diaspora, during his inaugural address at the Pravasi Bharatiya Divas on Saturday.
India is all set to deploy its capacities in vaccine production and supply. Besides the neighbours, barring Pakistan, Brazil, Morocco, Saudi Arabia, Myanmar, Bangladesh, South Africa have made official announcements seeking vaccines from India.
“India has been at the forefront of the global response in the common fight against the coronavirus pandemic, from the beginning. And, sees international cooperation in this field, particularly with its neighbours, as its duty,” Anurag Srivastava, MEA spokesperson, said.
Sources say the government will accord priority to all its neighbours, be it Bangladesh, Bhutan, Nepal, Sri Lanka or even Afghanistan, in vaccine distribution.
Kathmandu has requested 12 million doses of coronavirus vaccine, which India is likely to supply. Ahead of his visit to India on January 14, Foreign Minister Pradeep Gyawali reportedly told the media in Kathmandu that India and Nepal are looking at signing a coronavirus pact.
According to reports, Nepal sought India’s help to procure Covid-19 vaccines for around 20 per cent of its population, as the Himalayan nation ramps up its efforts to contain the deadly virus that has killed more than 1,800 people and infected over 260,000 others.
Bhutan has requested 1 million doses of the Oxford-AstraZeneca or ‘Covishield’ vaccine, being manufactured at Serum Institute of India (SII), Pune.
Myanmar has signed a purchase contract with the Serum Institute of India (SII). It also has a deal with China to source vaccines.
“The purchase contract for buying the first batch of the vaccines from India has already been signed. As soon as the authorities concerned in India have issued permission to use this vaccine, we have made arrangements for the import of these vaccines into Myanmar,” announced, State Counsellor Daw AungSan Suu Kyi in her New Year address to the nation.
Myanmar has also asked the World Health Organization’s COVAX programme and the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunisation (GAVI) to secure vaccines for its poor.
Bangladesh has requested 30 million doses of Covishield. In November, Bangladesh’s Beximco pharmaceuticals had signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the Serum Institute to procure 30 million doses of Covishield, after the country’s drug regulator approved administering of Indian vaccine.
Sri Lanka has requested vaccine doses and was assured by External Affairs Minister Dr S Jaishankar during his call with President Gotabaya Rajapaksa in Colombo.
Meanwhile, Sri Lanka is looking at acquiring vaccines under UN backed COVAX facility which subsidises the shots for 92 low and middle-income countries.
The Maldives remains engaged with India to acquire the vaccine.
India has offered to assist Afghanistan. Foreign ministers of the two sides spoke recently where discussion over Covid vaccine roll out in India also came up.
“A great pleasure to talk to my friend Indian EAM HE @DrSJaishankar. We discussed resumption of #AfghanPeaceTalks in Doha & garnering regional and intl support for a ceasefire leading to a political settlement in AFG. Congrats excellency on Covid vaccine roll out in India,” Atmar tweeted Friday.
India is facing massive demand for Covid vaccines not just from the neighbourhood but from other countries as well. According to officials, the demands of every country will be met on a “case to case” basis similar to how India handled HCQ demand.
Meanwhile, Adar Poonawalla, SII CEO, and Bharat Biotech chairman and managing director Dr Krishna Ella issued a joint statement Tuesday pledging towards a “smooth rollout of Covid-19 vaccines to India and the world”.
According to Krishna Ella, around 12-14 countries have shown interest in Bharat Biotech’s vaccine, including the US and the UK.
“All these countries want safer technology and not very high technology. They want that the vaccine should be safe and doesn’t have long-term side-effects. We are also in advance talks with the Bangladesh government for starting clinical trials there. Also, we are talking to the Indian government on signing purchase agreements,” Ella said at a virtual press briefing Monday.
Of the BRICS nations, Brazil and South Africa both have expressed desire to purchase the vaccines from India.
Brazil’s President Jair Bolsonaro wrote a letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi requesting for 2 million Covishield vaccines manufactured by Serum Institute on an ‘urgent’ basis given the growing cases of coronavirus in the country.
In the letter, Bolsonaro wrote, “I would appreciate being able to count on Your Excellency’s good offices to anticipate the supply to Brazil, with the possible urgency and without jeopardizing the Indian vaccination program, of 2 million doses of the immunizer produced by the Serum Institute of India.”
South Africa’s health ministry said on Thursday that the country would get 1.5 million vaccines from the Serum Institute of India (SII), with a million coming in January and the remainder the following month.
The ministry added in a statement that it was working with the country’s health regulator SAHPRA to ensure there were no delays with the rollout of the vaccines.
The government has placed orders for 120 million doses from the Pfizer-BioNTech, 120 million from Oxford-AstraZeneca, 50 million from Moderna and 250 million from Novavax.
The government has placed orders for 20 million doses each from Pfizer-BioNTech and Oxford-AstraZeneca. Health authorities are set to receive another 10 million doses through the WHO-backed Covax Facility.
They have signed deals for four million doses of the Johnson & Johnson candidate.
The Australian government has secured 140 million doses in all. 53.8 Million from Oxford-AstraZeneca, 51 million from Novavax, and 10 million from Pfizer-BioNTech. Another 25.5 doses will be supplied by Covax.
The government plans to have at least 50 million and has pre-ordered 2.6 million doses of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine. Philippines health minister said they are in talks with the Serum Institute of India for 30 million doses of the Novavax vaccine. To be ready by July 2021. A formal deal could come through by the end of the year.
It is also in talks to secure more from Pfizer-BioNTech.
They have ordered 338 million vaccine doses, mostly from China, 125.5 million doses from Sinovac, 60 million from Sinopharm and 20 million from CanSino Biologics.
The country will also receive 100 million doses of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine and 30 million from Novavax.
Amid controversy over whether if the vaccines are ‘halal’ or not, Indonesia’s Ulema Council on Friday gave its approval to a coronavirus vaccine produced by China’s Sinovac Biotech, deeming it to be permissible under Islam.
The council said the shot, named CoronaVac, was “holy and halal”, although the vaccine’s medical authorization still rests with Indonesia’s food and drug agency.
Vietnam has registered to buy about 50 million-150 million vaccine doses from Russia. Apart from this, also vaccines developed by Britain.
The government purchased 26 million doses of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine, expected to arrive only till June. The target is to acquire 66 million doses by next year, rest will be sourced from Covax and manufacturers in the United States, China, Britain and Russia.
The government will provide funds worth S$1 billion for vaccines from Moderna, Pfizer-BioNTech and Sinovac, without disclosing volumes or further financial details.
Many of the nations would be acquiring vaccines manufactured in India under the World Health Organisation’s GAVI-COVAX alliance.
Meanwhile, WHO has urged countries to stop making bilateral vaccine deals, and if they have signed contracts for more than they need, to release them to the globally shared Covax programme.
World Health Organization Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus asked countries that have booked excess vaccine doses to “donate and release them to Covax immediately,” adding, “Stop making bilateral deals at the expense of Covax.”
Source: India Today