Between January 2021 and June 2023, India exported 30.1 crore Covid vaccine doses, show data from the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA). While a majority of these doses, 77 per cent were commercial exports, 17.3 per cent were was directed to low-income developing nations through COVAX. The rest were provided as grants.

Currently, India stands as the world’s third largest commercial exporter of Covid vaccines after China and Russia, having exported 23.4 crore Covid vaccine doses for commercial purposes. The Netherlands received almost half of these doses (48 per cent). The other major recipients are Australia and Myanmar.

Under COVAX, the multilateral mechanism for global access to Covid-19 vaccines, India distributed 5.2 crore vaccine doses. As the mission is set to wind up by December 31, the major recipients of India’s vaccine are Bangladesh, Nigeria, and Nepal.

When it comes to the 1.5 crore doses supplied as grants, the major recipients include Myanmar, Bangladesh, and Nepal.

According to the MEA data, commercial shipments of Covid vaccines increased from 3.6 crore supplies in January- June 2021 to 10.4 crore in January- June 2022 . Between January and June 2023, the supply was 94.4 lakh doses. Vaccine supplies under COVAX saw a reduction from 1.9 crore in January-June 2021 to 73.6 lakh 2022 in July-December.

Additionally, vaccine supplies as grants have decreased from 1.1 crore supplies over the span of two and a half years. This however was in line with Covid cases coming down across the world.

The Review of International Political Economy suggests that India’s extensive donation of vaccines was motivated by two main factors. Firstly, there were geopolitical considerations, where India aimed to counter the influence of China. As a result, it donated a substantial number of vaccines to countries such as Nepal, Bangladesh, and Myanmar, providing them with Covid vaccines as grants and vaccines under the COVAX mission.

The second reason was to offset the manufacturing costs. India sold a significant quantity of vaccines to countries that were beyond its geopolitical reach, contributing to covering the expenses associated with vaccine production. In modern times, it is a form of vaccine diplomacy.

Major producers

The Serum Institute of India (SII) supplied a total of 29.5 crore Covid vaccines globally. Within this, 12.5 crore were Covishield doses, while the remaining were Covovax. In the commercial category, SII supplied 16.8 crore Covovax vaccines and 6.2 crore Covishield vaccines.

Additionally, 1.1 crore Covishield vaccines were sent as grants and the government provided 5.2 crore Covishield vaccines for the COVAX mission.

The second-largest supplier of vaccines in India was Bharat Biotech. It supplied 59 lakh doses of the indigenous vaccine, Covaxin. Of these, 29.7 lakh doses were provided as grants and the remaining 29.3 lakh doses were exported to different countries commercially.

The Russian vaccine Sputnik Light, authorised by the Indian government in an emergency, contributed minimally, accounting for 1.3 lakh doses in the commercial category, all of which were sent to Uzbekistan in February 2022.