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Jakarta Post

India: Pharmacy of the world for COVID-19

  • Manoj K. Bharti

Jakarta   /   Mon, February 15, 2021   /   01:20 am
India: Pharmacy of the world for COVID-19 Mass inoculation: A medical worker inoculates a colleague with a COVID-19 vaccine at the All India Institute of Medical Science (AIIMS) in New Delhi, India, on Jan 16, 2021 (AFP/Sajjad Hussain)

Since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, India has taken proactive measures to address the public health issues. This helped India to contain the spread of the disease as shown by the numbers.

Despite its huge population, the total number of reported cases in India as of Saturday stood at 10,892,550, and the total number of deaths from the disease was 155,588. India’s focus has been on decreasing fatalities by better provision of medical equipment, including ventilators, oxygen cylinders etc. in its hospitals.

As India ramped up the production of masks, oxygen cylinders, ventilators and other medical equipment, it also shared the same with all partner countries. Last year, India supplied medicines when the pandemic started, and medical equipment to more than 150 countries.

In parallel with the measures to contain the disease, decrease fatalities and improve medical facilities, Indian scientists, biotechnologists and pharmaceutical companies took a lead in vaccine research, development and manufacturing to meet not only domestic demand but also global requirements.

So far, India has granted emergency use authorization for two vaccines, namely those manufactured by Serum Institute of India and Bharat Biotech. There are four other vaccines in different stages of clinical trials. It is likely that at least two of them, including a second indigenous vaccine being developed by Zydus Cadila, will be granted authorization in the coming weeks.

To share our experiences, India has organized a number of online training programs for COVID-19 testing, clinical practices, case management, vaccine development and delivery etc., in which more than 1,000 participants from Asian and African countries participated. India has also organized a training program covering administrative and operational aspects, which was conducted from Jan. 19 to 20 for immunization managers, cold chain officers, communication officers and data managers of the partner countries, both at national and provincial levels.

Since the rollout of COVID-19 vaccines in India on Jan. 16, it started vaccine supplies to neighboring and partner countries on Jan. 20. As Prime Minister Narendra Modi said, “from producing PPE kits to becoming a pharmacy for the world, our country has gone from strength to strength. It has also become a source of support for the world during the crisis. India is at the forefront of developing COVID-19 vaccines”.

As of Feb. 9, India has supplied a total of 16.77 million doses of Covishield vaccines to 20 countries in its neighborhood and beyond. No less than 62.7 lakh (6.27 million) doses have been supplied as grants-in-aid to Bangladesh (20 lakhs), Myanmar (15 lakhs), Nepal (10 lakhs), Bhutan (1.5 lakhs), Maldives (1 lakh), Mauritius (1 lakh), Seychelles (50,000), Sri Lanka (5 lakhs), Bahrain (1 lakh), Oman (1 lakh), Afghanistan (5 lakhs), Barbados (1 lakh) and Dominica (0.7 lakh).

The rest have been supplied vaccines under contract with vaccine manufacturer Serum Institute of India (SII), including to Bangladesh (50 lakhs), Brazil (20 lakhs), Morocco (20 lakhs), South Africa (10 lakhs), Kuwait (2 lakhs), Egypt (50,000), Algeria (50,000) and the United Arab Emirates (2 lakhs).

Supply of vaccines is an ongoing effort. In the coming weeks, vaccines will be supplied to African countries, under the COVAX facility. There will also be supplies on a bilateral basis as India’s gift. India will facilitate to some African countries that have signed a commercial contract with the vaccine manufacturers in India. Similar supplies will be sent through grants, commercial contracts and under the COVAX facility to Caribbean Community, Pacific Island countries and Latin American countries.

No other country has supplied such a quantity of vaccines to foreign countries. India has already proved that it indeed is the pharmacy of the world.  

 ***

The writer is ambassador of India to Indonesia.