India epidemic aggravates global vaccine supply imbalance

India epidemic aggravates global vaccine supply imbalance

One day in May 2021, Adar punawara made a difficult decision to announce that the Indian Serum Institute (SII), which he controls, had to extend the suspension of the export of new crown vaccines until the end of 2021. At the same time, ADAR said that in view of the serious new round of epidemic in India, SII will strive to expand vaccine production capacity and give priority to supply to India.
As the world’s largest vaccine producer and the main vaccine supplier of the “new crown vaccine international implementation plan” (COVAX), SII’s decision to some extent also shows that India’s epidemic is out of control, which not only provides more opportunities for COVID-19 mutation, but also brings devastating blow to the global supply of the new crown vaccine.
Human beings are once again facing severe challenges in the tug of war between vaccines and viruses.
Failed “world pharmacy”
The Serum Institute of India (SII) was founded in 1966 by saris punawara, the father of Adar punawara. In its subsequent development, SII has become a long-term partner of who and a manufacturer of affordable conventional vaccines for low – and middle-income countries.
After cooperating with AstraZeneca Pharmaceutical Co., Ltd. and becoming the authorized manufacturer of Oxford AstraZeneca new crown vaccine in 2020, SII hopes to make use of its strong advantages in production scale and price compared with Western vaccine manufacturers to realize the mass production and export of new crown vaccine in India, and finally undertake the important task of “vaccinating the whole world”.
However, a new round of the outbreak, which started in March, made the Indian government hard up in medical supplies and vaccine reserves, and finally announced the cancellation of the international export plan of the new crown vaccine. The sudden export restrictions not only caught SII off guard, but also made covax face the embarrassing situation of insufficient supply.
According to statistics, SII should have delivered at least 100 million doses of new coronal vaccine for covax between February 2021 and may 2021, but only 19.8 million doses were delivered during this period. This undoubtedly makes the hope of “inoculating the world” through “made in India” even more remote.
SII’s experience also reflects the limitations of COVID-19 in the world as a “world pharmacy” in India, which is based on the scale effect of cheap generic drugs. Although it has the world’s largest vaccine production capacity, Indian vaccine manufacturers have failed to expand production capacity at a critical moment to meet domestic and international demand.
As an important international vaccine producer, India’s domestic epidemic and the shortage of new vaccines are bringing great challenges to the global cooperation initiative aimed at ensuring fair distribution of vaccines.
The “COVID-19 vaccine international implementation plan” (COVAX), which is widely co operated by various international organizations and governments and pharmaceutical companies, promises to provide 2 billion New World Health Organization approved vaccines to 190 member countries by the end of 2021, and hopes to ensure that 1 billion 300 million of them are used by 92 middle and low income countries in the world. At the same time, covax also hopes to vaccinate 20% of the world’s population in low – and middle-income countries, so as to protect health care workers and high-risk and vulnerable groups.
However, when the ideal shines into reality, it is a different scene. Due to over reliance on the Oxford AstraZeneca vaccine, covax almost completely lost its supply after it was not available in India.
Among the 170 million doses of covax vaccine supply target in the first half of 2021, SII originally planned to provide 110 million doses of vaccine, accounting for 64% of the total supply of covax in the first half of 2021. However, from its inception to mid June 2021, covax has distributed more than 80 million doses of vaccine to 129 countries. This not only failed covax’s plan to achieve 170 million doses of vaccine supply in the first half of the year, but also made it more difficult to achieve the goal of 2 billion doses of vaccine supply by the end of 2021.
This result also reflects the systemic risk of over dependence of international vaccine production on “made in India” and the weakness of the whole international vaccine supply chain.
Currently, the suspension of SII exports has led to the complete disruption of vaccination programs across Africa. Because the vast majority of African countries are expected to get cheap new vaccines through covax. At present, in Africa, with a total population of about 1.3 billion, only 31 million people, accounting for 2% of the total, have received one dose of the vaccine, while only 7 million people have received two doses.
How hard is it to “vaccinate the world”
“Supply is almost completely cut off, and vaccination of covax in Africa is stagnant.” Ayud arakka, CO chairman of the African Union vaccine transport alliance, said it was not known when the vaccine would be imported again. To make matters worse, after receiving the first dose of vaccine, thousands of health care workers in African countries were told that the second dose could not be completed on a regular basis due to the interruption of vaccine supply, and the plan to vaccinate other front-line workers and vulnerable groups at high risk in Africa became even more remote.
In recent weeks, when there is a lack of vaccine supply in Africa, who analysis shows that the infection rate of new coronavirus in Africa has increased by 20% to 30%, and the third serious epidemic seems to be unstoppable.
At the same time, some developed countries, while cooperating with covax, have signed orders with major international vaccine manufacturers at higher purchase prices to ensure that more vaccines can be obtained in a shorter period of time for domestic use and reserve. In the case of limited global vaccine production capacity, covax is in a more disadvantageous position in international vaccine supply and distribution, which also limits the supply channel of covax vaccine.
According to statistics, by the end of November 2020, high-income countries, accounting for 14%, will have 51% of the world’s vaccine supply. Tan Desai, director general of the World Health Organization, publicly accused the developed countries of buying and hoarding vaccines for their own interests. He said: “the current international vaccine crisis is a shocking inequality. This inequality will keep COVID-19 going on.” He also stressed the importance of fair distribution and vaccination for the whole world. “If people in low – and middle-income countries lose the chance of vaccination, the virus will continue to take people’s lives, and the recovery and development of the world economy will be delayed.”
The scarcity of new vaccines in the world makes the competition for vaccines more intense, resulting in the uneven distribution of vaccines. Especially because the vaccines made in India can’t supply covax, when developed countries use their economic capacity and political influence to hoard vaccines, and low and middle-income countries can’t get vaccines to protect the groups in need of protection, the hope of trying to “vaccinate the world” to end the global epidemic seems to be more difficult to realize.
On June 2, who approved the emergency use license of Sinovac vaccine in China. This is the second new crown vaccine independently developed and manufactured by China and approved by who. At present, there are only six new coronal vaccines approved by who for emergency use in the world. This not only brings opportunities for the new vaccines made in China to enter covax, but also brings more diversified possibilities for the extremely unbalanced international vaccine supply and distribution.
Covax is also learning lessons and striving to cooperate with more vaccine manufacturers to obtain vaccine supply“ The world urgently needs a variety of new crown vaccines to alleviate the huge global uneven distribution of new crown vaccines. ” Who assistant director general for access to pharmaceutical products, mariangela SMAO, said.
Although more vaccine manufacturers can increase the supply of covax in the long run, it will take at least a few months from order to delivery, which means that this method of promoting diversified supply can not solve the current shortage of covax vaccine.
Ayud arakoga, CO chairman of the African Union vaccine transport alliance, helplessly called: “I want to say to the developed countries now, please share your surplus vaccines, please act now, don’t wait for Africa to become the next India. Let’s fix the vaccine supply system so that people can get vaccinated now. “
“Wherever there is COVID-19 in the world, there will be its existence everywhere.” Melinda Gates said, “as long as COVID-19 is still wreaking havoc in other countries, it will eventually rebound into our own territory.”

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