India to restart ‘Vaccine Maitri’

India made, India developed COVID-19 vaccines are now again in news. One way, it started on October 11, when Indians who have been fully vaccinated with India made Covishield were exempted from undergoing the mandatory 10-day quarantine on arrival in Britain, ending a standoff between the two countries. With close to 93 crore doses of COVID-19 vaccine doses dispensed in India so far, now India is about to resume the export of COVID-19 vaccines under ‘Vaccine Maitri’. 4 million COVID-19 vaccines will be exported to 4 countries.

‘Vaccine Maitri’ is part of India’s commitment towards COVAX. COVAX is co-led by Gavi, the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI) and the World Health Organisation.

Union Health Minister Mansukh Mandaviya has said- “We are resuming Vaccine Maitri next month in line with our motto ‘Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam’,’’ the surplus supply of vaccines would be used to fulfill India’s commitment towards the world for the collective fight against the virus.

So, obviously India has generated “surplus supply”, and more than 100 crore doses will be made in coming quarter, out of which more than 30 crore doses would be made in October. And that’s global news.

‘Vaccine Maitri’ was going on well and although India halted exports of vaccine in April in order to inoculate its mass population, by May 31, 6.6 crore doses of India made vaccines have gone out of India either as grants, exports or supplies to COVAX. The last despatch was on March 29. Close to 99% of the vaccines supplied were Covishield.

Still, India has said only “excess supplies” will be eligible for exports. Vaccine production has nearly doubled since April and could rise to over 30 crore doses by October. This factor is going to free up the supplies. Several other factors also are favouring India. We have been successful in containing the tide and there is a steady decline in new cases. Nearly half of India’s adult population has been given at least one dose.

But even these “excess supplies” are substantial. SII had assured that by December 31, it will complete the supply of 66 crore doses of Covishield against the recent order and will touch supplies of more than 130 crore doses in the year 2021. Bharat Biotech is currently producing nearly 3 crore doses of Covaxin every month and its production is likely to be ramped up to 5 crores in the coming months.

That is why the government has permitted Serum Institute of India (SII) 10 lakh Covishield doses each to Nepal, Myanmar and Bangladesh, while Bharat Biotech will provide 10 lakh doses of Covaxin to Iran in October. Serum Institute of India has been permitted to export 1 million Covishield doses to Bangladesh. SII has also been allowed to supply bulk Covishield vaccine also, which is equivalent to around 3 crore doses, to AstraZeneca in the UK.

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