Vaccine shortage - GulfToday

Vaccine shortage

COVID-19 cases in India

A woman walks past a notice on a wall informing people about shortage of COVID-19 vaccine in Ahmadabad, India. Reuters

The global media is carrying pitiable reports about the shortage of vaccines in India, despite a raving pandemic. However, a lackadaisical attitude towards India’s requirements of vaccines and its production capabilities, makes it clear that India will continue to face intense vaccine shortages for two to three years (“Several Indian states run out of coronavirus vaccines, nationwide inoculation delayed as infections surge,” April 30, Gulf Today).

India has to vaccinate at least 1.2 billion people to achieve herd immunity. Then, it needs 2.4 billion doses. Currently India can produce just 70 million vaccines monthly, at the Serum Institute and Bharat Biotech. So, India can have only 840 million doses per annum. At this rate, India will need three year to vaccinate 1.2 billion people.

Now, production is being ramped up in the two largest producers, to about 200 million doses per month. However, this will be done gradually over the next seven months. In addition, India is hoping to source about 50 million more doses from the other production institutes in Kasauli (Himachal Pradesh), Bulandshahr (Uttar Pradesh) and Mumbai. However, these will all take six months to a year to go into production.

On an average, India could budget an availability of 135 million doses per month from June to December, which is 945 million doses over this year. Even then, it will take 2.5 years before 1.2 billion Indians are vaccinated. The Russian vaccine Sputnik is expected to be available by June. Many states in India are floating global tenders for vaccines; however, they will have to buy the vaccines at global prices, without any subsidies from the Central Government. Thus, Indians will have to be patient, and hope to get their vaccines over a period of 18 to 24 months.

Thus, sourcing the vaccines is a challenge. Distributing them seamlessly will be a bigger challenge. COVID-19 is now racing through many villages, where primary health centres do not have staff, oxygen or testing equipment.

Rajendra Aneja
Mumbai, India

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