Up to Half of India’s Current Covid19 Vaccine Stock Is Reserved for Free Export to Nearby Countries
India is gearing up to export half of its stock of 5 crore vaccine doses of both Covishield and Covaxin to nearby countries as a “goodwill gesture” to help them “meet their immediate requirements,” unnamed government officials have confirmed to The Print.
Following a meeting yesterday between different ministries, including health, pharmaceuticals, and external affairs, a decision was taken to despatch the vaccines to least-developed neighboring countries first, completely free of cost. However, “countries that can afford the vaccines will not be given free-of-cost,” another official said.
Vaccines will be exported to Bhutan, Afghanistan, Nepal, Bangladesh, Seychelles, Mongolia, Oman, Myanmar, the Philippines, Bahrain, the Maldives, and Mauritius.
Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General of the World Health Organization (WHO), criticized yesterday the emerging vaccine inequality between richer and poorer nations, saying: “I need to be blunt: the world is on the brink of a catastrophic moral failure — and the price of this failure will be paid with lives and livelihoods in the world’s poorest countries.” He added that the “me-first” approach of richer, more developed countries would be self-defeating in the long run since it would “only prolong the pandemic, the restrictions needed to contain it, and human and economic suffering.”
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In that context, while India’s decision to share its stock of vaccines free-of-cost to its needy neighbors might appear to be a step in the right direction, some experts have concerns.
Despite India’s large-scale vaccine-manufacturing capabilities (it was already the producer of 60% of the world’s vaccines even before the pandemic), some experts doubt the country will be able to meet the vaccine-demand of a global pandemic — even for its own citizens. “We will never have sufficient supply of vaccines. The prioritization of recipients is going to be a considerable challenge,” Dr. Chandrakant Lahariya, an epidemiologist and public health specialist, told BBC.
Some experts are further concerned by the overcommitment of Indian vaccine manufacturers, who have pledged to supply vaccines to other countries as well as to share several doses with the WHO’s Covax initiative. “We need a third vaccine, otherwise the waiting line will be very long,” Ramesh Anbanandam, a professor at the IIT-Roorkee’s department of management studies, who specializes in healthcare supply chains, told Scroll.in.
And while government officials told The Print that India’s least-developed neighbors will be given the vaccines free-of-cost, it remains unclear whether the same vaccines will be free for Indian citizens at home.