The All India People’s Science Network, a national federation of science movements, on Wednesday called on the Centre to oppose “misguided vaccine nationalism”, amid demands to stop the export of doses in the middle of the second wave of the coronavirus pandemic.
“There is a wholly misconceived campaign being mounted, including by some political parties and sections of the media, that India should stop commercial and aid-based exports of vaccines so as to prioritize domestic needs, the network said. “Even before this, the Government had imposed some restrictions on exports potentially undoing the goodwill earned earlier by free supply of vaccine to friendly developing countries and by its substantial contribution to the international Covax facility to supply vaccines to lower income countries.”
The All India People’s Science Network noted that India itself was a beneficiary of the World Health Organization-backed Covax facility. “China and India are amongst the few countries that are working to assist the global vaccination effort especially in developing and low-income countries, and it would be cruel and immoral to weaken or close down this endeavor in an extremely selfish display of vaccine nationalism, and that too for very little benefit,” the network added. “This is a record to be proud of, not condemned.”
It pointed out that India has received back around one-third of its supplies to Covax as it is a beneficiary country, and also largest recipient, under the system.
The network said this kind of vaccine nationalism and “related crass commercialism practiced” by the United States was one of the major factors stopping companies like the Serum Institute of India and Biological-E, which is licenced to manufacture the Johnson & Johnson vaccine in India, to scale up production.
All India People’s Science Network also called on the Centre to allow other Indian manufacturers to produce Bharat Biotech’s vaccine Covaxin. “There is no compulsion to allow Bharat Biotech to retain a monopoly over the know-how for this vaccine, especially during this dangerous second wave of the pandemic, just as India had joined South Africa to demand that vaccine developers and manufacturers in the developed countries give up their monopoly rights,” it said.
So far, at least 10 states – Kerala, Rajasthan, Andhra Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Haryana, Maharashtra, Odisha, Telangana, Punjab and Delhi – have reported vaccine shortages. Scarcity of vaccines during the second wave of the pandemic has forced some states to turn beneficiaries away.
The Ministry of Health and Family Welfare on Tuesday claimed there was no shortage of vaccines in the country, and the problem of supply was related to planning by the states.
Meanwhile, amid the surge in cases and demands to expand inoculation, the Drugs Controller General of India on Tuesday approved the emergency use of Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine.
The government also fast-tracked emergency approvals for foreign-produced vaccines that have been cleared in other countries. The move will allow quicker access to other vaccines and pave the way for imports, the Centre said.