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India largest Covid vaccine buyer but where are the jabs?

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New Delhi, April 8, 2021-
Amid the tussle between the state governments and the Centre over the supply and shortage of Covid vaccines, the truth is that India has been the largest buyer of Covid jabs in the world with pre-booking of 1.6 billion doses.

According to a recent analysis by US-based Duke University’s Global Health Innovation Centre, India had pre-ordered 500 million doses of the Oxford University-AstraZeneca vaccine, one billion from the US company Novavax (to be made at the Serum Institute of India in Pune) and 100 million doses of the Russian Sputnik V vaccine.

The Serum Institute of India (SII) has announced a delay in the launch of Covovax (developed jointly by the company and Novavax) to September.

SII CEO Adar Poonawalla said on Twitter last month that: “It has been tested against African and UK variants of Covid-19 and has overall efficacy of 89%. Hope to launch by September 2021.”

Reports quoted Poonawalla as saying that a temporary ban by the US on exporting critical raw materials could limit the production of vaccines like Novavax.

According to experts, these vaccines, once procured or developed within time, can help fast vaccinate nearly 60 per cent of the Indian population.

According to the global analysis, India was the top Covid-19 vaccine buyer, followed by the European Union (EU) and the US.

“Countries with manufacturing capacity, such as India and Brazil, have been successful in negotiating large advance market commitments with leading vaccine candidates as part of the manufacturing agreements,” the Duke researchers said in their analysis.

When it comes to Russian Covid-19 vaccine Sputnik V (to be jointly made with Dr Reddy’s in the country), the Subject Expert Committee (SEC) of the Indian drug regulator, tasked with vetting Covid-19 vaccine proposals, has sought additional data on the vaccine while deciding on its emergency use authorisation.

India is witnessing a massive surge in Covid caseloads in the second wave. The country recorded 1,26,789 Covid-19 cases on Thursday, the highest single day surge after the pandemic outbreak last year.

In such a scenario, the country cannot depend on just two local vaccine manufacturers and have to procure and develop the pre-booked vaccines in order to vaccinate more and more people across age groups.

India will need to give 36.5 lakh shots per day until the end of July, in order to achieve the target of vaccinating 25 crore people with two doses.

The SII is aiming to expand its capacity by April end or early May by another 4-5 crore doses. At present, it can produce more than 7 crore doses a month.

Currently, Bharat Biotech is producing more than 40 lakh doses of Covaxin per month at its Hyderabad-based plant.

These figures are not enough to achieve the vaccination targets.

Active cases have crossed the 900,000-mark and now stand at 910,319.

India is now the 4th-worst hit country in terms of active cases. The country also witnessed a grim record of second-most fatalities due to Covid-19 in a single day in 2021, which stood at 685. The death toll from the deadly infection stands at 1,66,892 now.

India has so far vaccinated 9,01,98,673 people in the country since the drive began on January 16 after the approval for Covishield and Covaxin vaccines. (Agency)

Now, ‘Corona vaccine war’ rages between Centre, Maharashtra

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