About a third of the world’s population in the world’s poorest countries pinned their hopes on India to deliver their COVID-19 vaccine, then the virus took over India itself.
The outbreak has plagued the nation’s 1.3 billion people. Hospitals are overwhelmed with oxygen shortages and 200,000 deaths are a huge number.
But it resonates beyond the borders of India.
The vaccine-producing powerhouse is putting a greater emphasis on domestic supply than on exporting, and will no longer send millions of scheduled volumes to low and middle-income countries in Africa, Asia and Latin America. go
Experts say this has already exacerbated vaccine inequality around the world, leaving poorer countries to wait longer as the United States and others fly forward. This could prolong an outbreak for all by mutant virus strains that could potentially infect and evade more Western vaccines.
“This is the worst fear out of everything we were worried about last year,” according to Achal Prabhala, India’s vaccine provider expert in AccessIBSA, which campaigns for global access to medicines. “The decision to rely on just one country – but the only company in that country – was a ridiculous decision,” said Bangalore-based Prabhala.
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Experts say there are many complaints to come.
While the United States and other wealthy countries buy most of the vaccine supplies. Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna – both expensive and delicate – poorer countries turn to India.
The Serum Institute of India is the world’s largest volume-based vaccine manufacturer and has a licensing agreement to produce the cheap and effective AstraZeneca vaccine from Oxford University.
Last year, SII signed a massive supply agreement with COVAX, a global vaccine sharing program run by the World Health Organization that plans to deliver 1.8 billion vaccines to 92 countries with revenues. Low and medium this year
Experts often say this is optimistic because COVAX assumes that the Serum Institute will be able to supply unrealistic doses. India has now limited the supply, creating a loophole in the supply of vaccines to developing countries.
“What happened not only But only difficult to guess But that’s expected, ”said Andrea Taylor, assistant program director at the Duke Global Health Innovation Center, the agency for the COVID-19 vaccine supply information.
“We put a lot of eggs in the same basket as vaccine production in India,” she said. “Unfortunately, it’s a very strategic mistake to expect a country to produce this much global vaccine.”
The Indian government does not tolerate direct export restrictions. But it’s clear what happened, according to supply chain experts and information from India’s foreign ministry.
NBC News contacted the Indian Health Ministry by email and phone on Friday with no response.The Serum Institute of India declined to comment.
Experts say export restrictions are a key factor in enabling COVAX to deliver fewer than 50 million vaccines worldwide, which is just a quarter of what it plans to distribute by the end of May.
Supply was reduced for countries across Africa, as well as parts of Asia and Latin America. Many countries are still less than 1 percent in terms of people who get the vaccine.Others, such as Chad and Burkina Faso, have not received any doses from COVAX at all.
Some experts said India was hardly to blame. Maintaining a dose at home to combat a catastrophic outbreak is something the US and other countries have always been doing.
“India is now legally applying the contracted vaccine to someone else,” he said. With other people’s vaccines “
Others believe COVAX made a fatal mistake in relying on one drugmaker and one vaccine. Experts have been telling NBC News for months that they fear the thing will resume biting the project.
A spokesperson for Gavi, one of COVAX partners, said in an emailed statement to NBC News that it understands that “India’s vaccine production – at least next month, at least next month – will strive to protect its citizens”, while Where “the country is truly facing The terrifying wave of the epidemic
In the meantime, COVAX will endeavor to distribute vaccine groups and provide support to countries awaiting drug administration. “To make sure that the second drug will be given within the specified period”
In the short term, wealthy countries could do much more to share quantities with poorer countries than to vaccinate healthy young people at home, many experts agree.
But the only long-term solution is to create more vaccines across plans around the world, according to Rasmus Bech Hansen, CEO of London-based drug analysis company Airfinity.
“In the past, vaccine production was not a very good business,” he said. “In the past, there was no demand and companies couldn’t justify investing.”
He added, “One of these is what needs to happen.”