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All About India's Covid-19 Vaccine Diplomacy

Sep 30, 2020 7:47 AM 3 min read

India holds several distinctions. But one that stands out, which it can leverage to its benefit during the ongoing pandemic, is its prominence as the world’s largest producer of vaccines



United Nations of Corona

With the Drugs Controller General of India (DCGI) issuing a new set of guidelines allowing it to approve a vaccine with 50% efficacy (along the lines of the US Food and Drug Administration), the race to develop a vaccine against COVID-19 has gathered unprecedented steam. And given the fact that it could potentially be the “new global currency of power”, India has left practically no stone unturned to ensure that it is amongst the frontrunners.  

From Israel to France and the US to Sweden, India is forging new diplomatic relations with any country or alliance in the world that is developing a vaccine against COVID-19.


Dr Reddy’s-Sputnik V

Russia has repeatedly stressed on producing the vaccine at the earliest, and as per Russian state media, first batches of Russia's Covid vaccine Gam-COVID-Vac (Sputnik V), developed by the Gamaleya Research Institute of Epidemiology and Microbiology of the Russian Health Ministry, have entered "civil circulation" in Moscow. 

Late-stage clinical trials of Sputnik V could also begin in India in the coming weeks as Indian pharma company Dr Reddy’s Laboratories has struck a deal with Russia’s sovereign wealth fund, which is supporting the vaccine development

International scepticism around rushed trials aside, Russia’s record in developing efficient vaccines goes back to SARS and Ebola, when it helped many African countries fight the deadly outbreaks. 

While Russia may be adept in the development of vaccines, they have limited manufacturing capacities - a gap that can be met by Indian companies. 



Serum Institute of India (SII), the world's largest vaccine maker by number of doses produced, has partnered with Oxford-Astrazeneca for Phase 2 and 3 trials of their vaccine candidate Covishield, which have already begun in two Mumbai Hospitals - King Edward Memorial (KEM) Hospital and BYL Nair Hospital.



Meanwhile, SII has also started manufacturing US biotech firm Codagenix’s Covid-19 vaccine candidate - CDX-005. 

It has also partnered with Gavi, a global alliance for vaccines, and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to speed up manufacturing and delivery of up to 100 million doses of potential Covid-19 vaccines for India and other low and middle-income countries in 2021.


Bharat Biotech-Covaxin

Hyderabad-based pharma company, Bharat Biotech, which is developing Covaxin along with the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), has entered an agreement with Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, Missouri, US. 

The first phase of human trial will take place is Missouri. The later phases will be conducted in India, subject to DCGI’s approval.


All About India's Covid-19 Vaccine Diplomacy 

India’s COVID-19 Diplomacy

India’s track record as a globally trusted manufacturing partner and supplier of vaccines as well as medicines puts it in an advantageous position - making it easier for us to forge trusted relationships with other governments, international organisations, firms and donors, and obtain speedy approvals. 


Five-Point Strategy

And to this effect, as per this HT report, the Union government is reportedly working on five ways in which it can supply vaccines to its key neighbours and allies. 

  1. Free distribution to a few immediate neighbours such as Bangladesh, Afghanistan, and other SAARC countries
  2. Heavily subsidised vaccines being distributed to poorer countries, some of which in Africa, as a part of India’s international obligations
  3.  Ensuring that recipient countries purchase vaccines at market price but being assured of supply
  4.  Approach countries to participate in trials of Indian vaccine candidates
  5. Approach nations for co-production of Indian vaccine candidates

Needless to say, the ideal global distribution of a COVID-19 vaccine must look beyond countries that have the deepest pockets and instead prioritise frontline workers, countries with major outbreaks and people with comorbidities.

But before it supplies COVID-19 vaccine to other countries, vaccinating its 1.3 billion people would perhaps be a monumental task in itself for India.


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