With the second wave of Covid-19 striking India at the moment, pointed questions are being posed about the vaccination strategy as well as India’s supply of doses. India's vaccine diplomacy- the decision to supply vaccines to foreign countries- is especially being questioned and criticized.
The government is said to have made estimates of the vaccines that could be sent abroad based on three factors: domestic production, the demands of the national vaccine programme and requests for vaccines manufactured in India.
As per the latest data by the external affairs ministry, India has exported 6.45 crore doses of vaccines under it’s “Vaccine Maitri” initiative, including 1.04 crore supplied as a grant, 3.57 crore given on a commercial basis and 1.82 crore through the United Nation’s Covax initiative.
While some states, including Maharashtra, Odisha, Jharkhand, are raising alarm and accusing the Centre of not supplying them with enough vaccine doses, others are dealing with the problem of vaccine wastage. The average wastage in India has been estimated at 6.5%, with maximum being reported from Telangana (17.6%), Andhra Pradesh (11.6%), Uttar Pradesh (9.4%) and Karnataka (6.9%).
With the steady rise in Covid cases, some opposition parties are demanding curbs on the exports, at least until the Indian population is immunised. This comes despite India administering over 9.4 crore crore vaccinations at home.
The world’s dependence on India for the vaccine is evident with a total of 84 countries receiving India-made vaccines so far. Hence, the decision to curb vaccine supply has global consequences.
State governments have expressed concerns about the current inoculation drive. But the Centre is staying firm with it’s vaccine policy stating that the vulnerable population must be secured first. Health minister Vardhan has said that, “This is the established practice around the world.” The vaccines will continue to be administered on the basis of age, ailments and professional engagement.
Can the government convince Indians that vaccine exports are not being made at the cost of their health?
This article has been written by Kyra Songadwala for The Paradigm
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