- GS-2: Foreign Policy
- GS-2: Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation.
Context: With close to 85 crore doses of COVID-19 vaccine doses given in India so far, government has disclosed plans to resume export of the India-made vaccine from October, under a programme called ‘Vaccine Maitri’, to foreign countries as well as COVAX.
- Regarding the resumption of exports, India has said only “excess supplies” will be eligible for exports.
What is COVAX?
- The COVAX program is led by the vaccine alliance GAVI, the World Health Organisation (WHO) and the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI) in partnership with UNICEF, vaccine manufacturers and the World Bank, among others.
- The aim is to ensure equitable distribution of COVID-19 vaccines globally in what is being called the largest vaccine procurement and supply operation in history.
- The program wants to vaccinate roughly 20 per cent of the population in the 92 Advance Market Commitment (AMC) countries, which include middle and lower-income nations that cannot afford to pay for COVID-19 vaccines.
- This means countries with a Gross National Income (GNI) per capita of less than US $4000 and some other countries which are eligible under the World Bank International Development Association (IDA).
- The funding target for this program for 2021 is about US $6.8 billion, of which it has raised about US $4 billion. The funding is partly coming from high and middle-income countries that will also receive a share of the vaccines produced for COVAX
- The latest supply forecast for global vaccine-sharing platform, COVAX, is that it will have distributed 1.4 billion doses by the end of 2021, less than the 2 billion doses it had aimed for earlier this year.
How many doses has India supplied abroad?
- According to data from the Ministry of External Affairs, as of May 31, 6.6 crore doses of locally made vaccines have gone out of India either as grants, exports or supplies to COVAX.
- The last despatch was on March 29. Close to 99% of the vaccines supplied were Covishield.
Why did India stop vaccine exports?
- India’s vaccination drive began in January 2021 for healthcare workers and was gradually expanded to those aged over 60.
- Until February, the uptake was slow. The first two months were also marked by a declining trend in daily fresh cases of infection.
- By February, the daily count had dipped to an all-time low of below 10,000 — something not witnessed since June 2020.
- Some government-backed epidemiological forecasts as well political messaging began giving out the impression that India had likely passed the worst of the pandemic.
- By March the increase in infection cases was rapid enough for a growing public demand that vaccines be made freely available.
- To cater to the domestic demand in the backdrop of slow supply, India placed “restrictions” on the export of Covishield, and stopped it by mid-April.
What has changed now?
- Vaccine production has nearly doubled since April and could rise to over 30 crore doses by October.
- There is also steady decline in new cases, over half the adults have got at least one dose and, despite reports of fully inoculated people catching the infection, there is no worrying rise in severe disease or mortality.
- However, Covishield continues to be India’s vaccine mainstay. The supply of Covaxin has increased, but it still accounts for only around 11% of India’s total vaccine output.
- Millions of doses of Sputnik V, Sputnik Light, Corbevax and ZyCoV-D are projected to be available in the next few months but so far none has started rolling off the shelves.
- With nearly 100 crore doses needed to fully vaccinate all adults, it is unlikely that all will be fully vaccinated by the year-end. For that, one crore doses need to be administered every day. India’s average daily pace now is about 70 lakh doses.
Connecting the dots: