- GS-2: Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation.
Challenge ahead in vaccinating India
Context: Covid-19 vaccines were developed at an astonishing pace. No other disease has seen so many vaccines developed so fast. Out of 250 candidate vaccines that were being developed, at least 10 have already been approved for emergency use in different parts of the world.
Even after so many vaccines having been approved, why is there a huge shortage of supply, and unjustifiable and inequitable access to these vaccines?
- High Demand: With about seven billion people to be vaccinated worldwide, with mostly two jabs each, the demand for vaccines all across the world is obviously very high.
- Stockpiling by Developed Nations: The rich nations have behaved as they always do. More than 80% of available vaccines have been ordered and/or already stocked by a few countries representing only about 20% of the world population
- Vaccination plans of Rich Nations: Western countries, which have already immunised a significant portion of their adult populations, will proceed to vaccinate young children and, perhaps, even babies. It will therefore become even more difficult to access these vaccines in the free market.
- New Virus Mutants: New waves the world over are driven by mutants and although current vaccines seem effective against these, the chances of emergence of immune-escape mutants will only increase
- Fragile healthcare system: India’s poor healthcare system, has come under immense pressure as never before. There is an acute shortage of medical oxygen, and there is a big gap in the supply chain of the ambitious programme to vaccinate all its adult population.
- Huge Population in India: Although India ranks number three after the US and China in the absolute number of vaccines administered, only about 13% of its population has received a single jab and about 2% fully vaccinated
- Ramping up of existing production takes time: India is well known as the hub of vaccine manufacturing, however, vaccines are complex formulations of many components and depend on a seamless supply of raw materials that are mostly imported. Ramping up of existing production, even after adequate funds are available, will inevitably take a minimum 2-3 months.
- With at least three or four more vaccines, including Sputnik V, Janssen, and Novavax, already slated to be produced in India and several more being indigenously developed, India would certainly be producing vaccines to vaccinate its population.
- The proposed IP waiver might open up space for production of Covid vaccines with emergency use authorisations (EUA) on a larger scale in middle-income countries like India.
Connecting the dots: