India experiencing a devastating second wave of the coronavirus pandemic, questions are being asked about how the country — which is home to the world’s largest vaccine manufacturer — got to this tragic point. as the Covid-19 cases started witnessing unprecedented growth in India and the need for vaccinating the Indian population fast became more important Covax program hit hard. Now the African Union will miss its target of immunizing 30 to 35 percent of its population by 2021.
The sharp rise in infections seen in India since February has been attributed to the allowing of a large religious festival and election rallies, as well as the spread of a more infectious variant of the virus. Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his governing Bharatiya Janata Party have been criticized for a lack of caution and preparedness, and accused of putting politics and campaigning above public safety.
No advance purchase agreements paced with manufacturers and not allowing liquidity to increase production has further augmented the issues of shortage of vaccines to immunize the national population. According to virologist Shahid Jameel, more thought should have gone to sustain both the exports and domestic demand.
This delay in placing orders deferred SII’s plan to ramp up vaccine production and build up stock from 5 crores in December to 10 crores in March. a public health consultant privy to the told IE that to vaccinate 30 crore people at least 65 crore doses were required and with 15 crore coming from Bharat Biotech, with SII’s pace of production per month supply the required doses would anyway be a struggle, and hence there was no scope for export.
The shortcomings in vaccine supplies has inevitably led to a deflection of blame with vaccine manufacturers in the firing line. Questions over vaccine prices, manufacturing capacity and the destination of supplies have beset the world’s largest vaccine manufacturer, the Serum Institute of India, and Bharat Biotech, the Hyderabad-based pharmaceutical company that manufactures Covaxin.
Adar Poonawalla, CEO of the SII which produces the Covid vaccine developed by AstraZeneca and the University of Oxford, said Sunday that the institute had been blamed for a vaccine shortage and scapegoated by politicians, but said it had not boosted capacity earlier because of an initial lack of orders. Poonawalla noted that the Indian government had ordered 21 million doses of Covishield from the Serum Institute at the end of February but didn’t indicate when or if it would buy more, then it ordered an additional 110 million doses in March when infections started to rise.
July 2021 deadline India has only reached 25 percent of its target. Due to the shortage in the vaccine, inoculation dropped from 35 lakh each day in the first week of April to 21 lakh in the last week of April. In May the daily average dropped further to 16 lakh doses being administered per day.