BBC report about India’s vaccine export, panders to ignorance of credulous
BBC is known for anti-India reporting; its latest story on the country’s vaccine supply capacity shows the continuation of the same prejudices and biases against India
In its recent BBC report suggests that India, one of the world's largest producers of coronavirus vaccines, is struggling to meet its export commitments.
This is a highly erroneous report which lacks substance and facts on India’s commitment to supply coronavirus vaccines to the world. BBC should know that India commenced domestic COVID-19 vaccination programme on January 16. Within days, it also began external supplies.
As soon as purchase orders were placed, it also commenced supplies under COVAX facility. So far, more than 60 million doses of Made in India vaccines have been supplied to over 75 countries, including through COVAX. Details are available on the website of India’s External Affairs Ministry. No other country has supplied the world with as many doses as India has so far.
India has made it clear that keeping in view the domestic requirements of the phased rollout, the country will continue to supply COVID-19 vaccines to partner countries over the coming weeks and months in a phased manner. This position remains unchanged. India has not imposed any ban on exports of vaccines unlike many other countries.
India remains committed to help the world with vaccines, including through COVAX Facility. Given its current manufacturing capacity and requirements of national vaccination programmes, there may be a need to calibrate the supply schedules from time to time. All stakeholders would have to work together to adjust the schedules as required. Only by such cooperation, the world can collectively deal with the on-going pandemic.
BBC again says that the UK vaccine order has been put on hold intentionally by India.
UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson recently stated how the unintentional delay was because of technical glitches, for which no one can be blamed. He further thanked India for the vaccine support.
"I want to thank the Serum Institute of India for their heroic role in producing huge quantities of vaccine. No, no, there is a delay as there often is, caused for various technical reasons, but we hope to continue to work very closely with the Serum Institute, and indeed with partners around the world including on the European continent,” Johnson said at a news conference.
Coming to the India-US scenario in terms of vaccines, America has always hailed India’s effort and help to combat the pandemic. Dr. Peter Hotez, Dean of the National School of Tropical Medicine at Baylor College of Medicine (BCM) in Houston during a recent webinar said that India’s vaccines, made in collaboration with universities across the world such as BCM and Oxford University, have “rescued the world" and its contributions must not to be underestimated.
He added that the COVID-19 vaccine rollout is “India's gift” to the world in combating the virus.
At the request of then US President Donald Trump, India, last year, also lifted a domestic ban on the export of hydroxychloroquine (HQC), an anti-malarial drug which was touted by Trump as a potential “game changer” in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic.
India, a leader in exporting generic medicines across the world, had banned the export of the drug and its formulations in March, when the pandemic disrupted the supply chains. However, it eased some restrictions in April 2020 and shipped 50 million tablets of the drug to the United States in the same month.
Thanking and appreciating India’s generous move, Donald Trump said in a tweet, "Extraordinary times require even closer cooperation between friends. Thank you India and the Indian people for the decision on HCQ. Will not be forgotten! Thank you Prime Minister @NarendraModi for your strong leadership in helping not just India, but humanity, in this fight!" (sic)
Besides hydroxychloroquine, India also gave out diagnostic kits, ventilators, masks, gloves, and other medical supplies to other countries. That apart, India also helped its neighbouring countries to enhance and strengthen their clinical capabilities, under the Partnerships for Accelerating Clinical Trials (PACT) programme. It organised training courses for healthcare workers and administrators of partner countries under the Indian Technical and Economic Cooperation (ITEC) programme.
As India played its part in helping the world save lives from the deadly coronavirus, Shanghai Cooperation Organisation Secretary-General Vladimir Norov was high in his praise for the country saying, “India is playing the role as the pharmacy of the world during the Covid-19 pandemic with its vast experience and deep knowledge in medicine, setting the tone for many regional and global initiatives.”
Recently, the Indian government allocated Rs 900 crore for Mission Covid Suraksha, which aimed to accelerate vaccine development.
The BBC report further says that India lacks raw material which is hampering the production of vaccines.
It is again a baseless report. It is wrong to say that India lacks raw material and this is the reason behind slow production of vaccines. BBC should know that Serum Institute of India’s phase 2 and 3 bridging study of 1,600 participants for the covid-19 vaccine Covovax has started at one of the trial sites in Pune.
Covovax is Serum Institute’s version of the covid-19 vaccine developed by US-based Novavax, which earlier this month had announced that the jabs have an efficacy of 96% against the original strain determined in a phase 3 trial conducted in the UK. This is the highest efficacy so far achieved for a covid-19 vaccine against the original strain of the coronavirus. As this process continues, the Pune-based vaccine maker is currently producing around 67-70 million doses of Covishield vaccine per month. However, all said and done, India needs international cooperation to extend the benefit of vaccine production capacity to the world. The US should not block the export of key items like bags and filters which are likely to cause bottlenecks in vaccine production.