India has well earned the reputation of “pharmacy of the world”. With six vaccine candidates in different stages of the trial, India is set to roll out its vaccine diplomacy even with the second largest number of COVID-19 cases.
China, which was leading the vaccine development race, has been left behind because of the controversies surrounding CoronaVac, as it reportedly doesn’t have the same efficacy rate as that of the ones developed by the US Pfizer and the UK’s AstraZeneca.
Beijing had begun to woo ASEAN countries along with Brazil to increase its influence with the COVID-19 vaccine. But it has failed miserably as ASEAN nations like Thailand, the Philippines, and Malaysia have gone ahead to procure vaccines from the US and the UK.
China doesn’t seem to have confidence in its own vaccine as it will be purchasing 100 million doses of the Covid-19 vaccine from German company BioNtech. Meanwhile, Brazil has also slammed Beijing for not being transparent about granting emergency use authorization to the vaccine.
Countries Seek India’s Help
Meanwhile, countries like Bangladesh, Myanmar, Qatar, Bhutan, Switzerland, Bahrain, Austria, and South Korea have approached India for the supply of vaccines.
India’s foreign secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla recently said India may go for joint production of vaccines in some countries based on their willingness.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi during a virtual summit with his Bangladesh counterpart Sheikh Hasina had assured that New Delhi will provide Dhaka with vaccine whenever it will start production.
Being a supplier of almost 60% of the vaccine around the world, India is also a global powerhouse for generic pharmaceutical drugs. Among the six vaccines under trial in India are the homegrown Covaxin, developed by Hyderabad-based Bharat Biotech in collaboration with the state-run Indian Council of Medical Research, and Covishield jointly developed by the Oxford University and British drug-maker AstraZeneca.
India is also conducting trials for Russian Sputnik V in partnership with Dr. Reddy’s Laboratories. Modi during his UN General Assembly address had assured that India’s vaccine production and delivery capacity would be used to help “all humanity” fight off the crisis.
India’s bigger ambitions include helping the neighboring countries besides vaccinating around 300 million of its people by August.
Shringla had also assured that India will help interested nations in enhancing their cold chain and storage capacities so they can handle the vaccines, especially like Pfizer-BioNtech, which needs to be kept at temperatures below -70 C.
Luxembourg-based B Medical Systems, a global supplier of medical-grade refrigerators, freezers, and transport boxes, has plans to set up a production line in India as it looks forward to bolstering its cold chains.
Adarsh Poonawalla’s Serum Institute is mass-producing AstraZeneca’s vaccine. His company has produced 40 million doses before the vaccine’s phase three results and will have 100 million doses by next month, and up to 400 million by April. The company can produce 500 doses of the vaccine per minute and half of that will be kept for India, as per the report in ABC.
As promised, before the end of 2020, @SerumInstIndia has applied for emergency use authorisation for the first made-in-India vaccine, COVISHIELD. This will save countless lives, and I thank the Government of India and Sri @narendramodi ji for their invaluable support.
— Adar Poonawalla (@adarpoonawalla) December 7, 2020
Ever since the outbreak of the pandemic, India has remained ahead in its health diplomacy, also seen as a counter to China’s ‘Health Silk Road’, which is Beijing’s effort to position itself as a global healthcare leader during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Despite the burden of COVID-19 cases at home, India managed to send medical teams to the Maldives, Mauritius, Madagascar, Comoros, and Seychelles. India has emerged as a “net exporter, manufacturing over 500,000 personal protective equipment (PPE) kits and over 300,000 N-95 masks every day”, Shringla writes in Sputnik news.
With a total of 10.1 million cases, India is the second-most affected country by the Coronavirus in the world, after the US’ tally of 18.7 million.