A medic holds Covid-19 vaccine Covaxin vials through the countrywide inoculation drive, in Jaipur, Rajasthan, India, Saturday, Feb. 6, 2021.
Vishal Bhatnagar | NurPhoto | Getty Photos
India may develop into the world’s second largest Covid vaccine maker, and analysts say the nation has the capability to provide for each its personal inhabitants and different creating international locations.
Many of the world’s vaccines have traditionally come from India. Even earlier than Covid-19, the South Asian nation produced as much as about 60% of the world’s vaccines — and may achieve this at a comparatively low price.
“India has been a producing hub for vaccines … even earlier than the pandemic, and will subsequently be a strategic accomplice within the world inoculation in opposition to COVID-19,” JPMorgan analysts wrote in a report final month.
Consulting agency Deloitte predicts that India can be second solely to the U.S. by way of coronavirus vaccine manufacturing this yr. PS Easwaran, a accomplice at Deloitte India, stated greater than 3.5 billion Covid vaccines could possibly be made within the nation in 2021, in comparison with round 4 billion within the U.S.
Moreover, corporations in India are at the moment scaling up manufacturing to satisfy demand.
“We’re increasing our annualized capacities to ship 700 million doses of our intramuscular COVAXIN,” stated Indian agency Bharat Biotech, which developed a Covid vaccine along with the state-run Indian Council of Medical Analysis.
Covaxin has been accredited for emergency use in India, however has been mired in controversy because of criticism that there was a scarcity of transparency in its approval, and in addition as a result of it hasn’t printed sufficient efficacy knowledge.
India vaccines appropriate for creating world
One other vaccine — referred to as Covishield in India and co-developed by AstraZeneca and the University of Oxford — has also been granted emergency approval in India. It is being produced locally by the Serum Institute of India (SII).
According to Reuters, SII makes around 50 million doses of Covishield every month, and plans to increase production to 100 million doses a month by March.
Other Indian companies have agreed to produce vaccines for developers such as the Russian Direct Investment Fund and U.S. firm Johnson & Johnson. To be clear, these vaccine candidates have not been approved for use yet.
“Even without successful vaccine development from their own pipelines, available capacity provides opportunity to partner as contract manufacturers with approved vaccine developers to meet supply needs particularly for India and other [emerging markets],” the JPMorgan report said.
India’s vaccines will likely be more suitable for developing countries, said K Srinath Reddy, president of the Public Health Foundation of India.
Some of the leading vaccines right now, such as the ones from Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna, make use of messenger RNA technology (mRNA) which uses genetic material to trigger the body’s own infection-fighting process.
Those vaccines require “stringent cold chain requirements” that will be difficult, or even “out of the realm of possibility,” for most health systems, Reddy said.
Vaccines made in India are easier to transport and cheaper, putting the country in a better position than the U.S. and Europe when it comes to meeting demand in the developing world, he added.
India’s ‘proven record’
India’s huge production capacity also gives analysts confidence that the country can provide vaccines to other nations.
New Delhi has pledged to send vaccines to its neighboring countries, and has already supplied 15.6 million doses to 17 countries, according to Reuters.
“India’s manufacturing capabilities are sufficient to meet domestic demand,” said Nissy Solomon, a senior research associate at Centre for Public Policy Research (CPPR).
“With a proven track record on the scale at which vaccines are produced, India should be able ramp up production to meet international demand as well,” she told CNBC.
Solomon added that the country monitors domestic needs before making decisions on exports.
Bharat Biotech, for its part, said it is “fully prepared to meet the needs of India and global public health.”
Challenge of storing, distributing vaccines
However, there will be challenges as the country seeks to meet the vaccine demand in India and beyond.
Jefferies equity analyst, Abhishek Sharma, wrote in a note that the rollout of vaccines in India has been slow. Even under the assumption that the speed of vaccinations will increase, Sharma estimates that only 22% of India’s 1.38 billion population can be vaccinated in a year.
“The supply of vaccines is not as much a problem as that of storage, distribution and vaccine uptake,” said CPPR’s Solomon.
“India lacks the capacity to store and distribute to the masses at a scale as big as this,” she said, adding that the country should “strategically” choose vaccines that do not have to be stored at extreme temperatures.
The vaccines that India currently manufactures require normal refrigeration, but those produced by Pfizer-BioNTech need to be kept in extremely cold temperatures of minus 70 degrees Celsius (minus 94 degrees Fahrenheit), while those by Moderna have to be stored at minus 20 degrees Celsius (minus 4 degrees Fahrenheit).
The “real challenge” is in the sheer number of people who need to be vaccinated, said Reddy from the Public Health Foundation of India.
“This is the first time that an adult immunization program is being undertaken at such an unprecedented scale,” he told CNBC.
He said immunization programs typically focus on vaccinating children and mothers, and logistics network may not be prepared to handle vaccines for entire populations.
Reddy suggested that existing cold chain for food products could be used for vaccines, and was hopeful that this problem could be resolved.
“I would say that [these challenges are] more like speed breakers which will slow down the … program, rather than actual roadblocks which require the program to stop,” he said.