India has sent more than 23 crore Covid-19 vaccines to over 50 countries across the globe in the last two years under its Vaccine Maitri initiative, data shows.
In 2020, when the world joined hands to find a preventive for the pandemic, all eyes were on India – the known powerhouse of vaccine manufacturing.
According to the data collated by Observer Research Foundation’s vaccine tracker, around 17.30 crore doses have been sold commercially whereas 4.45 crore have been sent via commitments to the WHO-backed COVAX platform.
Around 1.50 crore vaccines have been sent as grants, the data shows.
These vaccine doses have been distributed across 33 countries in Africa, nine countries in Asia and two each in America (Bolivia and Nicaragua), Oceania (Papua New Guinea and the Solomon Islands) and West Asia (Syria and Yemen).
India produces 60 per cent of the world’s vaccines and accounts for 60-80 per cent of the United Nations’ annual vaccine procurement. Even before the outbreak of Covid, Indian firms have helped over the years to produce and distribute vaccines to the world.
“India’s extraordinary capability of producing cost-effective vaccines against Covid-19 has been proven through its own massive immunisation programme,” Mona, who leads the Covid trackers at ORF, told News18.com.
“While the over-dependence on Serum Institute of India’s Covishield initially hurt the global supply chain of vaccines in 2021, even today, despite diversified manufacturers and more number of vaccine candidates, made-in-India vaccines remain among the most trusted in the world. Serum Institute alone has supplied close to 150 crore doses of Covishield to COVAX,” she said, while further analysing that the Quad partnership has also decided to distribute 1 billion doses of Biological E’s Corbevax in the Indo-Pacific region.
The only concern, she said, at this point is that Corbevax is the only vaccine approved in India for the 15-17 age group, which might create competitive priorities for the country (in terms of giving lesser priority to exports).
Status of commitments to COVAX
WHO-backed COVAX was formed in April 2020 to ensure equitable distribution of vaccines globally, especially to lower and lower-middle-income countries which lack the infrastructure or capacity to manufacture anti-Covid drugs internally.
India stopped COVAX commitments under its Vaccine Maitri programme when the destructive second wave of Covid-19 struck in April 2021. It was done to prioritise inoculating Indian populations against the virus in light of the deadly impact of the Delta wave. It was later resumed in November 2021.
As per the latest data available from the ministry of external affairs (updated till June 22, 2022), 4.46 crore doses have been sent to the COVAX alliance.
Most of the COVAX doses have been distributed to African countries (3.3 crore doses). The top three recipients in Africa are Nigeria (96 lakh), Ethiopia (42 lakh), and Ghana (26 lakh).
In India’s neighbourhood, Nepal has received 63 lakh doses, followed by Bangladesh (43 lakh), Afghanistan (4.7 lakh), Sri Lanka (2.6 lakh), and Maldives (10,000).
“Only Covishield has been sent through COVAX. Other vaccines, Covaxin and Covovax doses are only shared through commercial agreements and grants,” Mona added, while pointing out that other neighbours such as Myanmar and Bhutan have also received Indian vaccines through commercial agreements and grants.
The Pune-based SII – which manufactures Covishield – is the world’s largest vaccine maker by the number of doses produced and sold globally. The 50-year-old company was manufacturing 1.5 billion doses every year before the start of the pandemic and specialised in a variety of vaccines such as polio, diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis, and BCG.