- By Harriet Aurel and Wijdan Mohammed Kavosa
- BBC World Service and BBC Monitoring
The world’s largest vaccine manufacturer is struggling to meet the ambitious goals set for the manufacture of Kovid-19 vaccines, as India plunges into a second wave of pandemics.
The Serum Institute (SII), based in Pune, Maharashtra, Western India, was committed to leading a global effort to vaccinate vulnerable and poor people by making 100 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine every month.
However, with the country in crisis, the government has blocked the export of IBS reserves, thus reserving valuable vaccines for its citizens. On Tuesday, despite international pressure and several rounds of negotiations, the export of five million AstraZeneca vaccines to the UK was stopped by Narendra Modi’s government.
India’s decision to limit the export of Kovid-19 vaccines in mid-March resulted in a decrease in countries in Asia and Africa that relied heavily on its vaccines. It is not known when the export will resume completely, nor how India plans to deal with the backlog of orders.
Not to be missed on BBC Africa:
According to India’s Foreign Ministry, exports of Kovid vaccines fell by 93% between March and April – from 28 million doses to two million. The decline began in mid-March, weeks before the decision to prioritize the national vaccination program was announced.
The lack of supply and export of vaccines from IBS and India is felt worldwide. More than 60 countries are directly affected by this crisis, mainly in Africa.
Gavi, the global vaccine alliance that administers the Covax program, which plans to deliver two billion doses to low-income countries (including India) by the end of the year, has moved to other countries to strengthen its vaccine supply. Has turned.
A Gavi spokesperson said, “The Kovacs facility no longer expects delivery of vaccines produced by the Serum Institute of India.” “SII was expected to deliver a total of 110 million doses to the Covax facility from India between February and May. Out of this allocation, only 20 million doses have been distributed so far.”
As a result, there are delays in supplies to countries that were to benefit from May delivery. A spokesman said that Gavi has told those countries that they should expect a dose to be received by the end of June, a month later than expected.
Last week, Gavi signed deals with other vaccine suppliers – Moderna and Novavax – to secure a total of 850 million additional doses to fill the void left by SII.
SII CEO Adar Poonawala has accused those in power, including ministers and business leaders, of harassing them by demanding the delivery of Kovidshield (the name of AstraZeneca’s vaccine in India).
“Threatening is a silence,” he told the British newspaper The Times. “The level of expectation and aggression is truly unprecedented. It’s overwhelming. Everyone thinks they need to take a shot. They can’t figure out why someone else should be in front of them.”
At the onset of the epidemic, Mr. Poonawala risked increasing the production capacity of IBS vaccines from 1.5 billion to 2.5 billion per year at a cost of $ 800 million (FCFA over 432 billion).
However, several months later, as the country is battling a brutal wave of infection, IBS and Poonawala are themselves under surveillance.
The Serum Institute has faced a series of lawsuits from governments around the world for failing to honor contractual supply agreements, and in April AstraZeneca sent a formal notice of delay to the manufacturer.
Just before the UK stopped foreign travelers, Mr Poonawala traveled to London with his wife and children – who attend school in the UK – following alleged threats. He said that he planned to stay “for a long time” while enjoying the security funded by the Government of India.
He has been accused of leaving India in the midst of the crisis, though Poonawalla says his departure was partly due to professional obligations in the UK.
Although there is no absolute restriction on exports, it is unclear when and to what extent exports will resume.
Data from Our World shows that India’s vaccination program is slowing down due to the lack of a vaccine. This may delay the recovery of exports.
The delay and uncertainty have worried countries such as Nepal and Bangladesh who have prepaid for the dose.
According to Nepali newspaper The Kathmandu Post, the country stopped its vaccination campaign on April 10 after India cut its vaccine exports.
India has supplied about 2.5 million doses to Nepal, including 10 million doses under trade agreements. According to the Kathmandu Post, despite paying 80% of the cost, Nepal is yet to receive one million additional doses from India. “Nepal plans to provide a second dose of vaccine to 1.35 million people over the age of 65 in May, but the government does not have enough stock,” the report said.
The Indian newspaper The Hindu quoted Nepali Foreign Minister Pradeep Gyawali as saying that it would not be possible for Nepal to vaccinate its elderly population if India did not provide the vaccine batch quickly.
On 4 May, the Bangladeshi newspaper Dhaka Tribune stated that the stock of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine would run out at the current rate of vaccination in ten days, leaving 1.5 million people waiting for new supplies to receive their second vaccine from India. “A crisis is imminent as Bangladesh needs an additional 2.79 million doses to complete the process,” the newspaper said.
According to the Indian newspaper Economic Times, Bangladesh then suspended vaccine registration due to the delay in imports from India. He said that Bangladesh has approved the emergency use of China’s Sinopharm and Russia’s Sputnik vaccines.
The World Health Organization has also this month given emergency approval for a Sinoform vaccine made in China, a prerequisite for its supply to Kovacs.
Dr. Marianzela Simo, WHO Deputy Director of General Policy for Access to Health Products, said, “The addition of this vaccine has the potential to accelerate access to the Kovid-19 vaccine for health workers and population at-risk countries.” ” “We urge the manufacturer to participate in the establishment of Kovacs and contribute to the goal of more equitable vaccine delivery.”
Three days after the approval, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said the country would deliver 10 million doses on Kovacs’ initiative and is working closely with the WHO.
Many countries around the world are making deals with China to buy Sinopharm supplements, including Egypt, which has gone so far as to get the right to manufacture vaccines on its soil.
Egypt’s Health Minister Hala Zayed said he hoped Egypt would become the center for the manufacture of vaccines for local use and export to African countries, with production scheduled to begin next month.
Experts have warned that the deployment of Kovacs in Africa has come to a standstill. According to the African Center for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC), only 1% of the continent’s population received a single dose of vaccine, while only 0.37% received the full two doses. In comparison, 20% of Europeans and 25% of Americans received the first dose.
According to Our World by the Numbers, as of May 4, less than 8% of the world’s population had received any vaccine dose, while the ten wealthiest countries accounted for 80% of all vaccinations.
Covax has shipped more than 58 million doses to 122 countries that depend on the program to vaccinate their populations, but India’s position means supply is not meeting demand.
At an emergency summit of African health ministers, Gavi CEO Dr Seth Berkeley said 150 million doses were behind schedule due to export restrictions imposed by India, and that figure would rise to 190 million next month.
Covax relied on AstraZeneca for 90% of its supply and export restrictions, imposed on cut-off access by India. New agreements with Novavax and Modern should not allow physical vaccines to be made available before July at the earliest.
Meanwhile, Kovacs will rely on donations from wealthy countries that bought a surplus of vaccines at the start of the epidemic. For example, Sweden plans to donate one million fully paid supplements of AstraZeneca in response to Kovacs’ call to help bridge the immediate supply backlog.
The most scarcity has been felt in Africa due to the restrictions imposed by India, which are heavily dependent on Kovacs.
“The situation in India is now very complicated because of the situation in India,” said Dr. John Nekengsong, Director of Africa CDC at the summit. “We are all watching in horror and disbelief as to what is happening in India and we do not expect vaccines to be shipped out of India soon.”
You might also be interested in: