Vaccine Maitri may have to wait till July’

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Context

● India is unlikely to resume its Vaccine Maitri program for the neighborhood, including Bangladesh, Nepal, and Sri Lanka, until at least July, given the sudden shortage of vaccines amidst a surge in COVID-19 cases, and the government’s plan for vaccination for all adults set to start on May 1.

Suspend the export

  •  India has had to suspend the export of both commercial and grant-based vaccine doses, including to countries in the neighbourhood which had already paid for the shipments, with the last batch going out at the beginning of April, after the second wave of the pandemic hit.
  •  India’s last shipment to Bangladesh was a grant of 1 lakh doses sent on April 2, while commercial shipments have not been sent since February 21, when 20 lakh doses were shipped.
  •  Sri Lanka and Nepal were last sent shipments through the COVAX alliance on March 6 and 28, respectively, while commercial shipments stopped at the end of February.

Roll Out of ‘’Vaccine Maitri’’ (Vaccine Friendship)

  • Lifted restrictions on HCQ Drug: India lifted its ban on exports of the drug HCQ, when there was demand for it across the world.
  • Medical Assistance: India sent medical teams to countries in the neighbourhood to assist the government to tackle the rising cases of COVID-19
  •  Vaccine Supply: Under its massive Vaccine Maitri programme, India exported more than 66 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines to 95 countries worldwide. Of these about 10 million were grants from the government, 20 million were sent as part of the global COVAX facility, and the rest 36 million were commercial export
  •  The forefront of multilateral diplomacy efforts: The Quad plan aims for production of one billion vaccines to be offered to South East Asian countries
  • Fight at WTO: India-South Africa are putting efforts at the WTO to have all vaccine patents (TRIPs) waived for the coronavirus pandemic duration
COVID-19 vaccine - Wikipedia

Criticism

  • Prematurely declaring Victory: Government did not anticipate the current second wave crisis and sent out the wrong message internationally when on January 29th, during his speech at the Davos forum, PM Modi said that the country had won the war on COVID-19.
  • Poor Preparedness on domestic & Trade front: India did not leverage its strengths over the past few weeks to ramp up hospital bed strength, pharma supplies and oxygen production through imports and for not halting those exports like pharmaceuticals and oxygen, that were needed the most.
  •  Wrong time to launch Vaccine Maitri Programme: India launched Vaccine Maitri programme at exactly the same time as the domestic vaccination programme began, without properly estimating the need or the urgency of vaccinating the whole population of India.
  •  Vaccine Exporter to Vaccine Importer: As the government has declared vaccines for all over 18 years to be opened up from May 1, India has gone from being a vaccine exporter, to needing vaccine imports, including the Russian Sputnik vaccine, U.S. developed Johnson and Johnson, Moderna and Pfizer and others.
  • Cancelled Diplomatic Meeting: Lack of awareness of the problem was most obvious in the international visits that were planned during this period - visits to India by Rwanda President Kagame, Danish PM Frederiksen, UK PM Johnson, Japanese PM Suga, all of which have had to be cancelled.

Actions are taken by other countries

  •  China has exported 80 million doses to about 60 countries, but only after it managed its own internal COVID-19 crisis.
  •  The European Union (EU) has exported 113.5 million doses to 43 countries, but the EU is made up of 27 countries.
  • The worst affected United States, which through the use of executive orders and its Defense Production Act, made domestic production and use of COVID-19 vaccines and pharma supplies its priority, refusing exports at present.

SOURCE: THE HINDU 

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