The International Monetary Fund has predicted that under the existing scenario of coronavirus vaccine supply, India will be able to inoculate 33% of its population by the end of this year. The economic body made the prediction in a document released on May 19, detailing how a $50 billion investment plan could vaccinate all eligible adults across the world by the middle of 2022.
The prediction made by the IMF is in stark contrast to the claim made by the central government, as earlier this week Health Minister Harsh Vardhan claimed that the country will be able to vaccinate all adults by the end of 2021.
Moreover, the IMF predicted that in case of a shortage of supply in adenovirus-based vaccines due to safety concerns, the vaccine coverage in India might fall to 12%. The Covishield vaccine, originally developed by pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca, and the Sputnik V vaccine, both of which have been cleared by the government, are adenovirus-based shots.
The IMF flagged another downside to vaccine supply as well. The IMF said supplies may also be hit in case high-income countries decide to provide an additional booster shot to elderly citizens, or inoculate children to protect them from new variants that might escape the vaccines in use at this point. However, the vaccine coverage in India is not expected to be affected in this scenario, according to the IMF.
Currently, 18.92 crore doses of the vaccine have been administered in India, while 4.14 crore beneficiaries have received both the shots, according to government data. Thus, only 2.95% of India’s 140 crore population are fully vaccinated as of now.
Earlier this month, Niti Aayog member VK Paul had said that India will have 216 crore doses of vaccines by the end of this year. However, the calculation furnished by the government included eight vaccines, out of which five have not yet been authorised in India, or anywhere else.
The IMF document also took note of the government’s assertion, adding that efforts should be taken to ensure that the “projected production capacity will materialise without delay”.
The IMF also said that India’s decision to ban the export of vaccines was affecting a number of developing countries. “Already, various manufacturers including the Serum Institute of India (licensed to manufacture Novavax and AstraZeneca) have experienced substantial delays,” the IMF document authored by the body’s Chief Economist Gita Gopinath and her colleague Ruchir Agarwal noted.
The document mentioned that the Serum Institute of India, manufacturer of Covishield in India, is contracted to supply about 85% of the supplies to the UN-backed COVAX initiative. Shortage of raw materials and export restrictions can reduce access to vaccines for 400 crore people in 91 developing countries, including India relying on COVAX, the IMF said. Earlier this month, COVAX had said that it urgently needed 2 crore doses of coronavirus vaccines to make up for interruptions in supply triggered by increased demands for shots in India.
COVAX is a joint initiative by various global health bodies including the GAVI Alliance and the World Health Organization, set up to generate the development of Covid-19 vaccines and to ensure vaccine equity.
Meanwhile, making a case for its $50 billion investment plan, IMF said that the goal is to vaccinate 40% beneficairies across all countries by 2021 and the remaining 60% by the first half of 2022. The IMF predicted that global vaccination coverage will result in an economic benefit of around $9 trillion.
The proposal’s total cost of around $50 billion would include grants, national government resources, and concessional financing, IMF said.