India’s coronavirus vaccine production lines, which manufacture at least 16 crore doses a month, will halt within weeks if the United States does not provide 37 crucial items, according to The Economist.
The US had in February invoked the Defence Production Act, which helped American pharmaceutical firms procure the material they needed to augment vaccine production. But under the act, the firms need permission to export raw materials. The US government can stop the companies from exporting them.
The export restrictions threaten to hinder vaccine production across the world at a time when coronavirus cases are surging. India is battling a severe second wave of the virus and struggling with shortages of vaccine and other critical equipment.
Last week, Adar Poonawalla, the chief executive officer of the Serum Institute of India, had requested US President Joe Biden to lift the embargo on the export of raw materials. These include plastic tubing and filters.
The Serum Institute, the world’s largest vaccine maker by volume, is currently producing Covishield, the Covid-19 vaccine developed by AstraZeneca and Oxford University. The vaccine is being used in India, and has been supplied to several other countries.
The company produces 1 crore doses of the Covishield vaccine per month. It also plans to start manufacturing 60 to 70 million doses of the Novavax vaccine.
Serum Institute’s Executive Director Suresh Jadhav said the production of the two vaccines will be affected in the next few weeks, according to The Economist.
In April, Poonawalla had said that his company’s existing capacity to manufacture coronavirus vaccine Covishield was “very stressed” and it required Rs 3,000 crore to increase production by June. He had also said that AstraZeneca has served a legal notice to Serum Institute for delays in supplying the vaccine.
American export restrictions would also hit vaccine producers in Europe, who need to import special bags from the US in which they make their products, according to The Economist.
Richard Hatchett, the chief of the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations, a global partnership to develop vaccines to stop future epidemics, has also expressed concerns about “constraints on global supply chains”. The coalition has requested the World Trade Organization for help, according to The Economist.
Globally, the coronavirus has infected more than 14 crore people and killed over 30 lakh since the pandemic broke out in December 2019, according to the Johns Hopkins University. More than 8 crore crore people have recovered from the infection.
India is struggling with a second wave of the virus, while attempting to continue vaccinating frontline workers and citizens over the age of 45.