In the last 15 months, not only has India administered Covid vaccines to its citizens, but also supplied them worldwide. The country had till now exported around 17.04 crore doses either as a grant, or on a commercial basis, or as part of COVAX to around 96 countries and UN agencies globally .
According to the data available with the Union Ministry of External Affairs (MEA), till March 28, India exported 11.46 crore doses of Covid vaccines on a commercial basis; 4.15 crore doses as part of COVAX; and 1.42 crore doses as a grant.
Covid-19 Vaccines Global Access, also known as COVAX, coordinates international resources enabling equitable access to Covid diagnostics, treatments, and vaccines. This is a global initiative by UNICEF, GAVI, World Health Organization, and the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations.
Vaccines that matter
Among the ‘Made-in-India’ vaccines that impacted the global market, the Pune-based Serum Institute of India’s (SII) Covishield accounted for around two-thirds (66.63 per cent) of the total supplies. India exported 11.35 crore doses of Covishield to 92 countries, including UN health workers and peacekeepers, in the last 15 months. Of this, 6.07 crore doses were exported commercialy, 4.15 crore doses as part of the COVAX arrangement, and 1.12 crore doses as a grant.
Covovax/Nuvaxovid, manufactured by SII, garnered the second position with 29.82 per cent of the total exports. Around 5.08 crore doses under this brand were exported to three countries on a commercial basis during the November-March period. A major share of 3.54 crore doses of Covovax/Nuvaxovid was exported to the Netherlands.
Shipment of Bharat Biotech’s Covaxin stood at 59.1 lakh doses to eight countries in the world market. With this, the Covaxin’s share in the total supplies stood at 3.46 per cent. Around 29.75 lakh doses of Covaxin were shipped as a grant and 29.35 lakh doses on the commercial basis.
Recently the World Health Organization (WHO) announced the suspension of the supply of Covaxin through UN procurement agencies following its post-emergency use listing (EUL) inspection. The company was told to conduct process and facility upgrade to address deficiencies in manufacturing practices. However, WHO had made it clear that the vaccine is effective and no safety concerns existed.
According to the data available with MEA, the last batch of Covaxin was shipped to Myanmar in January 2022, and there was no supply under the COVAX arrangement.
The lone commercial shipment of 1.35 lakh doses of Sputnik Light was made from India to Uzbekistan on February 18 2022.
Why the world favoured India’s vaccines
The recent report by the f Institute for Competitiveness titled ‘India’s Covid-19 Vaccination Administration Journey’ noted that India’s low-cost vaccine development capabilities combined with the capacity to export large-scale consignments positioned it as a major supplier of Covid vaccines. “Moreover, the ability to produce life-saving vaccines at a cost-effective rates appeared as a blessing to low-income countries unable to compete with affluent nations when it came to procuring expensive vaccines,” it said.
On ‘vaccine maitri’, which began with a despatch of 1.5 lakh doses to Bhutan on January 20 2021, the report said the program emerged when several countries were engaging in the so-called act of ‘vaccine nationalism’ that involves acquiring vaccine rights exclusively for their citizens.
Thanking the role played by India in supplying the Covid vaccine at the time of its urgent need, the Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro tweeted on January 22 2021, with a picture of Hanuman carrying vaccines from India to Brazil, atop a mountain, with ‘Dhanyawaad, Bharat’ and ‘Obrigado, India’ (in Brazilian Portuguese). This supply then was part of India’s ‘vaccine maitri’ initiative to donate vaccines worldwide following the pandemic.