Lift USA embargo  on the export of Vaccine raw materials

covid vaccine

Nation is currently reeling through a serious COVID pandemic.  Daily reported cases are touching  nearly 3.0 lakhs  with mounting deaths in many states.  Unless 30 crore population is vaccinated by beginning of August, it may not be possible to  stock pile antibodies, break the disease chain and attain herd immunity. Till the  third week of April  despite the vaccine shortages 12 croe population is vaccinated. However, recent emberago announced by United States administration on export of  raw materials and equipment  required for production can potentially stop  vaccine production with two major manufacturers of Covaxin (Bharat Biotech)  and Covishield( Serum Institute, Pune).

Two Indian  vaccine manufacturers are  producing nearly 60 million doses a month.  The  daily production of 20 lakh doses against the administered 36 lakh doses is the prime reason for current vaccine short fall  seen across the nation. In February this year US administration has imposed  export restrictions on supply of 37 essential chemical ingredients apart from   special pumps and other filtration equipment to other countries. The invoked defence production act is aimed at helping American  pharmaceutical industry to increase   domestic vaccine production. The fact is, USA  was  proactive and already vaccinated nearly 25 percent of it’s adult population ahead of many other developed Western nations. Besides, USA has stockpiled  sufficient stocks to vaccinate entire population.

Whereas, India is reeling under  serius second wave of COVID epidemic. Apart  from production of vaccines for domestic use, Indian vaccine manufactures  already exported nearly 60 million doses of  vaccine to 84 developing nations.  Alrady  India is experiencing serious  shortfall in supply of vaccines. After severe  criticism from  opposition parties, scientists and other   community groups the government has recently allocated nearly 4,500 thousand crore rupees to  two major manufacturer- Serum Institute and bharat  Biotech to  boost the capacity of  vaccine production. Recently   it has been decided to vaccinate all  above the age of 18 years. The nation is ambitious to produce 10 crore ( 100 million) doses a month to meet domestic as well export requirements. However, Indian vaccine production may come to a halt in a few weeks time, unless US administration lift the ban and  provides free access to raw materials.

Soumya Swaminathan, Chief Scientist at the World Health Organisation too  endorsed the prevailing  raw material scarcity  and added this will have serious implication in continuing global vaccination programme.  She  also suggested   facing a huge shortage of raw material to vaccinate the global population. Dr. Swaminathan  also called a meeting of  UN health officials  and global vaccine producers  to discuss this critical issue and need for a global agreement on the exports of such material.

United states ban of Vaccine raw materials is a move to  benefit  multinational vaccine producing Pharma industry   for sheer profits on the expense of valuable  millions of  lives across the globe. In view of COVID epidemic around the world the  US administration  should immediately withdraw the ban of  export of raw mwterial and facilitate increasd  production of vaccines in India  and other nations.

Dr Soma Marla is a Principal Scientist, Genomics with Indian council for Agricultural Research, New Delhi.



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