No alternative to producing vaccines

There is a global vaccine shortage — greater in low and middle income countries (LMICs) but also faced by rich countries. It is, therefore, no mystery why and Moderna have passed up the opportunity to participate in the global tender floated by several Indian states. Studies put the global requirement for herd immunity at roughly 12 billion doses. The only way out is to step up production of vaccines. India is critical for this ramp-up.

Increasing production of vaccines, and their ingredients, to avoid disruptions in vaccine supply, is the only way India can ensure adequate supply of vaccines at an affordable price to inoculate its 950 million-strong adult population. India augmenting its vaccine manufacturing supply chain will also make it possible to increase vaccine cover in LMICs, particularly those that do not have manufacturing capacities.

The paper by the International Monetary Fund put the global investment for increasing vaccine supply at $8 billion, out of a total Covid response worth $50 billion. The government of India needs to draw up a plan to augment the vaccine supply chain. It must begin by investing in increasing manufacturing facilities for vaccines that use domestically available ingredients. Upgrading laboratories to biosafety level-3 is a cost-effective way to manufacture Covaxin outside Bharat Biotech facilities. Use grants and fully paid-up advance orders.

Investment in vaccine research and production is something that India will have no cause to regret. Neither would the global community, as augmented facilities can be repurposed for production of other vaccines post Covid. At the G7 Leaders’ Summit in June, India must put forward a plan for increased vaccine production including production of ingredients, credible enough to draw in multilateral and bilateral financing for added global vaccine supply in a manner that is steady, avoiding supply shocks, and equitable.

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This is the only way that every country will be able to achieve herd immunity, so critical to making the world safe


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