The Bharatiya Janata Party on Wednesday said the 84% of the coronavirus vaccines exported so far by the Centre were part of commercial and licensing liabilities of the two manufacturers, Serum Institute of Indian and Bharat Biotech. The clarification came amid criticism of the central government from various quarters for sending vaccines to other countries without fulfilling requirements of benficiaries in India.
In a video message on Wednesday, BJP spokesperson Sambit Patra said nearly 6.63 crore doses of vaccine have been sent to other countries till May 11. He, however, added that only 1.07 crore of these doses was sent as an aid. He said the the remaining larger share of the doses sent to other countries were part of liabilities of the two vaccine producers.
Listing a detailed breakdown, the BJP spokesperson said that of the 1.07 crore doses sent as an aid, 78.5 lakh were dispatched to seven neighbouring countries. He said this move should not be seen only as a diplomatic measure, but that it also had epidemiological implications since it curbed the chances of the infection spreading to India from these countries.
Patra added that both Bharat Biotech and Serum Institute of India had commercial liabilities towards countries from where they procured raw materials for their vaccines. Under the agreements they signed, both the vaccine producers had to commit a certain number of doses as part of advance booking, Patra said.
As for licensing liabilities, Patra said, Serum Institute had to procure a licence from the Oxford University to manufacture the vaccine first developed by it and pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca. The BJP spokesperson also said that 30% of the vaccines shipped out by India were sent to the World Health Organization’s COVAX initiative as part of the licensing liabilities. India is a key supplier of the United Nations-backed COVAX initiative to give shots to some of the world’s poorest countries.
Notably, earlier this month, the WHO had said that the COVAX initiative urgently needed 2 crore doses of coronavirus vaccines to make up for interruptions in supply triggered by increased demands for shots in India, which is the main supplier of AstraZeneca shots.
Meanwhile, Patra attacked Opposition parties for criticising the government for sending vaccines to other countries, pointing out that majority of the doses exported were part of obligations that had to be met compulsorily and the government had no role to play in the matter.
“This misinformation is being spread that Indians were ignored and vaccines were sent abroad,” Patra said. “In this global era, no country can exist as an island and there has to be cooperative globalisation.”
India has been facing shortages of vaccines in several parts of the country as manufacturers have not been able to meet supply requirements. At least eight states have decided to float global tenders for procuring the doses as they struggle to inoculate those in the age group of 18-44, who became eligible for the shots in third phase of vaccination that rolled out on May 1.
Under the new vaccination policy, states and private hospitals have the onus of procuring vaccines for those in the 18-44 age group, from the manufacturers directly. But the policy leaves only 50% of the vaccines manufactured by Bharat Biotech and Serum Institute of India to be used to inoculate nearly 60 crore beneficiaries in this age group. The remaining half of the stock is earmarked for the Centre to vaccinate priority groups.