Vaccinating the world the bigger priority

Bharat Biotech’s vaccine for children aged 2-18 must be celebrated as a scientific achievement, but scarce vaccine capacity must be devoted to manufacturing doses for the world’s unvaccinated adults, a whole lot more vulnerable to Covid than children and far more capable of hosting virus mutations that produce new strains less amenable to control via inoculation. Only 48.7% of adults across the world have received at least one dose of the vaccine, the proportion drops to single digits in Africa. As a key manufacturer of vaccines for the world, India should focus on meeting global needs, creating capacity for future needs and helping build capacities in developing countries.

While the government cannot discourage a private entity from developing or manufacturing vaccines for children, it must ensure that production of vaccines for adults does not slacken. Let there be no assured purchases of the children’s vaccine. The overriding priority must be meeting the global demand for vaccines, particularly in countries of Africa, island states, Latin America, and even the immediate neighbourhood, where the percentage of fully vaccinated adults is still low. Protection of adults is essential to tackle the spread of the disease, rise of new variants, and resumption of economic activity. At the same time, the government must ensure that domestic companies do not miss out on an opportunity nor should it be unprepared should there be a need to step up vaccination of children. That will require a calibrated approach, where the bulk of government support is geared to adult vaccination.

The government, health and research agencies such as ICMR, and the drug regulator must be vigilant to flexibly respond to emerging situations.


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