Covid-19 vaccines roll out in India

India has the second-largest manufacturing capability to produce vaccines

India has the second-largest capability globally, to manufacture Covid-19 vaccines. Chart from Statista
India has the second-largest capability globally, to manufacture Covid-19 vaccines. Chart from Statista

The morning dailies in India are full of headlines and photos showing the shipments of Covid-19 vaccines rolling out to airports and major cities in a transport cold chain that includes planes and trucks. From the major cities, these will go to smaller towns and centers. The designated hospitals and vaccination centers will start vaccinating front line workers and healthcare staff in the first phase of 3 crore (30 million) vaccinations.

Pune’s Serum Institute of India sent its batches of Covishield (the Oxford-Astrazeneca vaccine) out on Tuesday morning – 12 January 2020. In its 148-page document, the Health and Family Welfare ministry has spelled out the operational guidelines, and the preparations at the hospitals and vaccination centers are mostly in line with these. From the list of those designated for vaccination to issuing an electronic certificate, the entire process is meant to be digital and managed using the Co-Win app.

Katharina Bucholz has written an article for Statista based on data from data analytic company Affinity, stating that the US and India have the two largest capacities to manufacture Covid-19 vaccines till the end of 2021. The US can produce almost 4.7 billion doses, and India can deliver more than 3 billion doses this year.

The largest vaccine manufacturer globally is the Serum Institute of India, which produced 1.5 billion doses in 2015. SII has significantly enhanced its capabilities in the past pandemic year, while some expansion is still underway and likely to be completed in the current year.

The Serum Institute of India plans to produce 1 billion doses of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine, which was rolled out on Tuesday with vaccinations to start by Saturday 16 January 2020. India’s domestically developed vaccine, Covaxin from Bharat Biotech, is also planning to roll out its first 12 million doses, although the stage III trials are not complete. Covaxin is also likely to be the first Indian manufactured Covid-19 vaccine exported. Bharat Biotech has already signed a deal with Precisa Medicamentos to supply the Covid-19 vaccine candidate to Brazil.

India has several other vaccine manufacturers and a more robust cold chain than many observers are aware of. Its pharma industry is well known for ethically supplying vaccines and treatment drugs to emerging countries at affordable prices.

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