Indian Coronavirus: Can Its Vaccine Manufacturers Meet Demand?

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By the Reality Check team
BBC News

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image copyrightGetty Images

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India produces 60% of the world’s vaccines, but it is also one of the countries with the highest number of coronavirus cases in the world, just behind the United States.
It must not only meet its own vaccine needs, but also meet its commitments to produce a share of the global supply.
So can he meet this demand?

How much vaccine can India produce?

Currently there are two vaccines approved in India – Covishield (the local name for the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine developed in the UK) and one called Covaxin.
There are more in testing, which are also being produced in India.
Indian pharmaceutical companies have reportedly increased production in recent months by adding new facilities or converting existing production lines.
The biggest producer, the Serum Institute of India (SII), says it can already produce between 60 and 70 million doses of vaccine per month.
Bharat Biotech says it aims to produce 200 million doses of vaccine per year, although currently it only has 20 million doses of Covaxin.

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Getty Images

Main Indian vaccine manufacturers

  • SIITwo vaccines (one approved)
  • Bharat BiotechTwo vaccines (one approved)
  • Organic ETwo vaccines (in trial phase)
  • Zydus CadilaA vaccine (in the trial phase)
  • Gennova BiopharmaA vaccine (in the trial phase)
  • Dr Reddy’s LabA vaccine (in the trial phase)

Source: media reports

Other companies producing vaccines in trials are in talks with authorities in India and other countries to deliver these vaccines when they are ready.
At this time, there are few details on the amounts involved.

What are India’s vaccine requirements?

The Indian government has announced that it will vaccinate 300 million people on the priority list by the end of July as part of its initial plan to fight the virus.
The immunization program is due to start on January 16, with health and frontline workers the first to receive the injections.

Man in Amritsar having taken a nasal swabimage copyrightGetty Images

legendIndia has second highest number of confirmed cases in the world

It aims to deliver a total of 600 million doses in about seven months, or about 85 million doses per month.
As of now, the largest manufacturer, SII, claims to have 50 million doses tested for quality and ready for deployment.
The company told us details of what proportion would be exported or kept for home use were still being worked out.

What about India’s role in the world?

India SII is also part of a large WHO-backed international program called Covax, which aims to help low and middle-income countries secure access to vaccines this year as the global race to acquire them s ‘accelerated.
Last September, the IBS agreed to provide 200 million doses to this program this year – either the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine or a vaccine developed in the United States called Novavax.

  • Countries fear they will not receive Covid vaccines

SII chief executive Adar Poonawalla told the BBC that the Covax deal could potentially be extended by another 900 million doses.

This would bring SII’s total commitment to this program to over one billion doses.
The company told the BBC it now aims to increase production to 100 million doses per month from March of this year.

What are the other commitments of Indian companies?

In addition to the Covax program, the IIS has entered into bilateral trade agreements with several countries to supply the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine.
Cold storage unit for vaccines in the city of Bangalore, Indiaimage copyrightEPA
legendA vaccine storage unit being prepared in Bangalore
But there was some confusion after SII boss Mr Poonawalla said earlier this month that approval for the vaccine was granted on condition that it was not exported.
The Indian government later clarified that exports would be allowed after Bangladesh, which reached an agreement to obtain 30 million initial doses, was reportedly concerned.
A foreign ministry official told the BBC that India was “keenly aware of its commitments to its neighbors and the rest of the world as the world’s largest vaccine maker.”
Currently, the SII also has agreements with Saudi Arabia, Myanmar and Morocco, although it is still unclear what quantities are involved and when they might receive the vaccine.
Nepal, Brazil and Sri Lanka are also said to be interested in obtaining vaccines made in India, either Oxford-AstraZeneca or Bharat Biotech’s Covaxin, which is the only other vaccine to be approved so far in India. .
But Mr Poonawalla said that for SII, the priority was always to meet domestic demand.
“Once we meet the initial requirement [in India], we will start to export it to other countries soon. ”
A spokesperson for the global vaccine alliance Gavi, which helps run the Covax program, told the BBC he was in regular contact with Indian authorities and the IBS.
He said he was “confident” that there would be no delay in his commitment to Covax.
Virologist Dr Shaheed Jamil stresses that the Covax program is an international obligation, and adds that it would also not be good if Indian companies renounce previously agreed bilateral agreements with other countries.
But he adds that with the current availability: “I am not afraid that India is running out of vaccines”.
“The bottleneck would be how quickly we can vaccinate people,” he adds.
Another potential bottleneck is the availability of glass vials that are used for vaccines. There were fears that overall there could be shortages.
The SII, however, told the BBC that so far it has not experienced a shortage of such items.

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