Why does India need Covid-19 vaccine support?

India May 22, 2021

As India is facing a severe second wave of COVID19, there is a sudden rise in demand for COVID19 vaccines across India. So far India has administered around 19 crore doses of Covidshield manufactured by Serum Institute of India and Covaxin manufactured by Bharat Biotech. Presently Serum can produce 70 million doses a month of the Covidshield, and Bharat Biotech can make 10 million doses of Covaxin a month. To ramp up production three state-owned companies -Hyderabad-based Indian Immunologicals Ltd, Bharat Immunologicals and Biologicals Ltd (BIBCOL) in Bulandshehr, Uttar Pradesh and Mumbai-based Haffkine Institute are going to start production of Covaxin. The government is going to invest in installing the required facilities.

Russia's Sputnik V became the third vaccine approved by the Drugs Controller General of India (DCGI) in April for emergency use authorization (EUA) in India. Dr. Reddys has partnered with the Russia Direct Investment Fund (RDIF) to bring the Sputnik V vaccine to India and other countries. NITI Aayog member VK Paul informed that the Sputnik vaccine has arrived in India and its sale could begin soon. He also added that the production of Sputnik will begin in India in July and it is estimated that 15.6 crore doses will be manufactured.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the Biden administration's top medical adviser on Thursday said that it is imperative for India to collaborate with other countries, and companies to ramp up its vaccine production capability to vaccinate the country's huge population against COVID-19. According to a senior US diplomat, the US is considering joint production of the Johnson & Johnson Covid-19 vaccine in India and assisting Indian manufacturers such as SII to boost production.

The government has asserted that vaccines approved by FDA and WHO can come to India and concerned departments are in touch with Pfizer, Moderna, Johnson & Johnson, and Johnson. More than 200 crore doses of various vaccines like Covishield, Covaxin, Zydus Cadila DNA vaccine, BB Nasal Vaccine, Sputnik vaccine, etc are expected to be manufactured in India between August-December. Some of these vaccines are still in clinical trials and any further production depends on efficacy and safety.

As per foreign secretary, Harsh Vardhan Shringla India has conducted online training sessions for nearly 90 participants from 8 neighboring countries to develop capacity in clinical trials and clinical practices.

Some other private vaccine manufacturers in India have collaborated with foreign institutes/companies.

In the recent Quad summit in which leaders of India, the USA, Japan, Australia participated, a vaccine initiative was launched under which India will produce COVID 19 vaccines for the Indo-Pacific region with financial assistance from the US and Japan and while Australia will contribute in logistical aspects.  

Foreign Secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla has spoken about how United States Development Finance Corporation (DFC), Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), and a few others will provide financial assistance to boost India's vaccine production.

Hyderabad-based vaccine manufacturer Biological E has started phase III trials of their COVID19 vaccine developed with help of Baylor College of Medicine in Houston and Dynavax Technologies Corp (DVAX.O).  Biological E is buying Akorn India Ltd, a subsidiary of US-based Akorn Inc after which it will gain ownership of a plant in Paonta Sahib in Himachal Pradesh scaling their vaccine production capacity to 1 billion doses.

With assistance from other countries and plans to scale up production by Indian vaccine manufacturers, it still remains a question whether India will be able to overcome the shortage and vaccinate the whole population by the end of 2021.

This article has been written by Harsh Battulwar for The Paradigm

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