- India has been witnessing an unprecedented surge in COVID-19 cases largely due to UK variants of CoronaVirus (B.1.1.7).
- The World Health Organization (WHO) recently declared the variant first found in India (B.1.617) as a variant of global concern as it has already spread to more than 40 countries.
- This fast spread of these New variants underscores the fact that no one is safe until everyone is safe.
- Hence there is a need for the mass production of vaccines in order to inoculate the global population.
ISSUES WITH COVID VACCINES IN INDIA
- Because of the second wave vaccine hesitancy has ended in the country resulting in shortage of Vaccines across the country and criticism of the government’s Vaccine Maitri policy.
- As a result of the shortage, Indian government has imposed temporary restrictions on the export of COVID-19 vaccines.
- Also, all those aged 18 and above became eligible in India to receive the COVID-19 vaccines.
- Yet only a little over 12% of the population has received one dose and 3.2% has received both the doses in India so far.
- Further, the local vaccine producers of Covishield and Covaxin are not able to meet the domestic demand.
- Despite all of this, it is aspected that soon with the rise of production of these companies and the entry of Sputnik, the condition of vaccine supply is bound to increase in India.
- However, even if all the three vaccines are exclusively used for domestic supply, it will not be sufficient to meet the enormous vaccine demand.
WHAT INDIA NEEDS TO DO?
- India being the pharmacy of the world should rise on the occasion to meet both its domestic demand and world especially of the poorer countries.
- Restrictions on export of Covid Vaccines should be only temporary and it should not result in vaccine nationalism.
- Pandemic needs to be checked globally. If this is not done, the virus will keep mutating.
STEPS TAKEN FOR MASS PRODUCTION OF COVID VACCINE
- In the first week of May, the Indian Council of Medical Research showed willingness to share the know-how to produce Covaxin with any company interested in its production.
- This step was aimed at increasing competition and hence reduction in the price and enhancing of vaccine production.
- To enhance the production of Covaxin, the Government has also involved three public sector enterprises namely Haffkine Biopharmaceutical Corporation, Bharat Immunologicals and Biologicals Corporation Limited, and Indian Immunologicals Limited in vaccine production.
- India needs to frame a long-term strategy to enhance supply at the domestic and international level in light of the fact that infectious diseases are expected to increase in the coming years.
- Public sector enterprises in the pharmaceuticals sector should be given status as strategically important in the Public Sector Enterprise Policy.
- Unavailability of raw materials, complexities in the transfer of technology, and intellectual property barriers all hinder production. Hence India should actively pursue for waiver under the TRIPS agreement as Intellectual property rights act as a major barrier in scaling up production.
- Global cooperation is needed so that companies interested in producing the mRNA vaccines get open licences from the innovators. This is because of the higher benefits of mRNA vaccine technology.
- WHO at present has approved two mRNA COVID-19 vaccines produced by Pfizer-BioNtech and Moderna.
- Last but not the least Global Cooperation is needed in sequencing of the viral genome to track and control the multiple variants.