US raw material export ban brings up concerns on Covid-19 vaccine shortages

PT Jyothi Datta Mumbai | Updated on April 24, 2021

Industry hopeful some critical components are released

Even as the United States Biden Administration stands by its decision to ban the export of raw-materials, concerns run high on whether the decision would worsen the ground reality where vaccines are already in short-supply.

There is particular concern on the World Health Organization-supported Covax facility, tasked with ensuring equitable access of vaccines across the world, specially to low and middle income countries. Serum Institute of India (SII) supplies the Astra-Zeneca-OxfordUniversity vaccine to Covax and its Chief Executive had been among the earliest to flag the vaccine shortages that would arise following the US ban on raw material exports, after it decided to invoke the Defense Production Act.

Also read: WHO chief expresses concern over rising Covid cases and deaths

Even as the US administration stays focusses on vaccinating more people in their country, vaccine industry sources are hopeful that the US may allow the export of some critical components that are required to make vaccines. Otherwise it risks delaying the supply of vaccines to countries including India, presently seeing a surge in corona virus cases.

On Friday, a joint media interaction by a platform for big pharmaceutical companies and developing country vaccine manufacturers had cautioned that the supply would fall short of projections, if export bans and trade restrictions were imposed. Over 200 components are used from different countries, including the US, they pointed out. And it would be difficult to look for an alternative supplier now, as that would require a fresh round of batch testing and regulatory approvals at multiple stages. And that in turn would delay the supply of vaccines.

Supplies hampered

Sai Prasad, Executive Director, Quality Operations, Bharat Biotech and President, Developing Countries Vaccine Manufacturers’ Network (DCVMN), had said the raw-material shortage was hampering vaccine supplies. Single use materials, plastic consumables etc were in short supply, and “there was no solution in sight”, he added.

Also with DCVMN, its chief executive, Rajinder Suri said, the raw material shortage would affect vaccine-makers’ efforts to ramp-up capacities.

Calling for a quick resolution of the situation, Michelle McMurry-Heath, President & Chief Executive, Biotechnology Innovation Organization (BIO) observed that the US DPA was “well intentioned, but misguided.”

A note from the International Federation of Pharmaceutical Manufacturers & Associations (IFPMA), BIO and DCVMN said, the one billion Covid-19 vaccine production milestone had been reached, and the aim was to get to 10 billion doses by end 2021.

Published on April 24, 2021

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