Because of its capacity to make Covid-19 vaccines both for its own population and other developing countries, analysts believe that India could become the second largest Covid-19 vaccine maker of the world.
Historically, India makes most of the vaccines of the world. About 60 per cent of the total vaccines of the world were made in India even before Covid-19 and the advantage of the country is that the production of vaccines is done at a relatively lower cost.
“India has been a manufacturing hub for vaccines … even before the pandemic, and should therefore be a strategic partner in the global inoculation against COVID-19,” JPMorgan analysts wrote in a report last month.
And according to the consulting firm Deloitte, Covid-19 vaccine production by India will be the second largest in the world after the United States this year. India could manufacture more than 3.5 billion Covid-19 vaccines in the current year compared to an estimated 4 billion in the US, said PS Easwaran, a partner at Deloitte India.
Moreover, production is being scaled up by companies in India to meet the increasing demand for the vaccines.
“We are expanding our annualized capacities to deliver 700 million doses of our intramuscular COVAXIN,” said Indian firm Bharat Biotech, which developed a Covid-19 vaccine together with the state-run Indian Council of Medical Research.
While the Indian regulator has granted emergency use permit to Covaxin, the vaccine also has had its share of controversy because of criticism of a lack of transparency in its approval as well as because the company has not yet published enough data on the vaccine’s efficacy.
Emergency approval in India has also been granted to another vaccine — called Covishield in India and was co-developed by AstraZeneca and the University of Oxford. The Serum Institute of India (SII) is making the vaccine in India.
About 50 million doses of Covishield are made by SII every month according to media reports, even as the company plans to increase its production capacity to 100 million doses a month by March.
There are also other Indian companies that have contracts to produce other vaccines such as the Covid-19 vaccine from the Russian Direct Investment Fund and that of the US firm Johnson & Johnson. These vaccines have not yet been granted regulatory approval in India.
“Even without successful vaccine development from their own pipelines, available capacity provides opportunity to partner as contract manufacturers with approved vaccine developers to meet supply needs particularly for India and other [emerging markets],” the JPMorgan report said.
It should be possible for India to scale up vaccine production so that it can meet international demand which is backed by the country’s proven track record on the scale at which vaccines are produced.
K Srinath Reddy, president of the Public Health Foundation of India, the Covid-19 vaccines made in India should also be more suitable for developing countries.
Reddy said some of the leading vaccines, such as the ones developed by Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna currently require “stringent cold chain requirements” that will be difficult, or even “out of the realm of possibility,” for the health systems of most developing countries.
On the other hand, the vaccines that are being made in India are much easier to transport and are a lot cheaper which will put India in a netter position than the US and Europe with respect to meeting vaccine demands from the developing countries, he said.
(Adapted from CNBC.com)