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A panel of officials from ministries of health, commerce, and foreign affairs, is likely to take a call on export of Covid vaccines (MINT_PRINT)
A panel of officials from ministries of health, commerce, and foreign affairs, is likely to take a call on export of Covid vaccines (MINT_PRINT)

India to weigh on Covid jab export after local demands are met

  • In the early days of the outbreak, India had assessed its requirement of medicines like hydroxychloroquine and paracetamol, once seen as a possible treatment for Covid-19
  • So far, Indian drug regulators have given the go-ahead to Covishield and Covaxin

Countries in the neighbourhood are likely to get first preference when India takes a call shortly on the export of vaccines to combat the Covid-19 pandemic, three people familiar with the matter said. However, domestic requirements will take priority, one of the three people said.

India plans to roll out its vaccination programme from Saturday and once commitments at home are dealt with, exports will be considered.

Also Read | What's got Indians excited about Covid shot

In the early days of the outbreak, India had assessed its requirement of medicines like hydroxychloroquine and paracetamol, once seen as a possible treatment for Covid-19, and then opened up stocks for exports, this person said, requesting anonymity.

“It is possible that we will follow the same template," the person said, pointing to the possibility of some countries receiving the vaccines as a gift from India while others would buy them. According to one estimate, India may gift about 10 million doses to countries such as Afghanistan, Bhutan, Bangladesh, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Maldives, Mauritius, and Seychelles.

A panel of officials from the ministries of health, commerce, and foreign affairs is likely to be constituted to take a call on exports of Covid-19 vaccines produced by India.

So far, Indian drug regulators have given the go-ahead to the Oxford-AstraZeneca developed and Serum Institute of India manufactured Covishield and Bharat Biotech International Ltd’s Covaxin for domestic inoculation of frontline health personnel and others such as police personnel and municipal workers.

A second crop of Covid-19 vaccines including Zydus Cadila’s ZyCoV-D, Russia’s Sputnik V, Biological E’s protein subunit shots, and Gennova Biopharmaceutical’s mRNA jabs, are likely to be ready between March and August. Besides these, the Pune-based Serum Institute is also likely to make doses of a vaccine developed by US-based Novax company.

Taken together, these vaccines are expected to increase supply and in turn drive down prices, besides allowing India to keep its promise of exports, the second person said, also on condition of anonymity.

“By June, we are looking at 500 million doses of vaccines being produced in India with the possibility of ramping up of production," the second person said.

The statement comes as China steps up its drive to ensure its vaccines find a place in lists prepared by countries like Africa, the Middle East, and Southeast Asia. News reports suggest that this effort could end up being a “soft power" diplomacy tool for China whose image across the world has taken a beating because of the pandemic originating there. There have been questions about Beijing’s role in allowing Covid-19 to become a pandemic that has claimed almost two million lives around the world.

In his address to the UN General Assembly in September, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had promised that India would use its “vaccine production and delivery capacity…to help all humanity in fighting this crisis (Covid-19 pandemic)."

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