India or Israel? Meet the other ‘vaccination nation’

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Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has called Israel the “vaccination nation” because of the country’s success in inoculating more than 5 million people in just a few months. However, less than 3,000 miles away, another country vaccinated as many in only three days – and manufactured millions of COVID-19 vaccines in just a few short months.

Meet India.

Nicknamed the “pharmacy of the world,” even before the pandemic, the country produced 60% of vaccines globally. Now, it is geared up to become the world’s second largest COVID vaccine maker only under the United States, with the capacity to produce enough doses to protect its own population and other developing countries.  

“Regardless of who comes up with a vaccine or where it is invented, it will remain meaningless if it is not manufactured  on a large scale,” India’s ambassador to Israel Shri Sanjeev Kumar Singla told The Jerusalem Post. “That’s where India’s manufacturing strengths become a crucial global asset.”

He said that “India has deep strengths in biotechnology and the pharmaceutical sector, both in  research and development and in manufacturing. Indian companies have been producing vaccines for the world even before COVID-19. Therefore, the transition for them has not been a  major challenge.”

The world’s single largest vaccine manufacturing plant is in India, a private company in Pune called the Serum Institute of India.

There are several global companies already tied up with Indian pharma companies for production of COVID-19 vaccines. These include Britain’s AstraZeneca, Russia’s Sputnik V and two American companies: Johnson & Johnson and Novavax. Johnson & Johnson is also carrying out part of its Phase III clinical trial in the country.  

Some one billion doses of the American vaccine are expected to be produced in India for distribution next year to countries in the Indo-Pacific region, Singla told the Post.

THE COUNTRY has actually not only sold but gifted millions of COVID-19 vaccines to several countries.

“We have a foundational, civilizational belief that we must share with everyone else, especially with the developing countries,” Singla said about the country’s exporting more than 64 million vaccines doses to more than 82 countries – at the time exceeding the number of vaccines it had administered internally.

“This belief is encapsulated in the Sanskrit term ‘Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam’, which means that the world is one family,” he further explained. “COVID-19 has only reiterated this since it has shown that no country is an island, and we are not safe until everyone else is safe.”

India sold some 25,000 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine to the Palestinian Authority earlier this year and said it would provide more if asked.

About 17% to 18% of the other exported vaccines went to countries near Israel, such as Algeria, Bahrain, Egypt, Iran, Kuwait, Morocco, Oman, Saudi  Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.  Another 40% were distributed to countries in Africa. And approximately 28% went to the World Health Organization’s COVAX program, which aims to provide COVID vaccine doses for at least 20% of countries’ populations that otherwise might not be able to afford them.

India also supplied vaccines to the UN Peacekeeping forces.

While Singla said that “it is too early” to look at vaccination in geopolitical terms, he admitted that “people do remember who came to their aid in times of desperate need. The goodwill stays.”

But he said that “such benefits would be corollary but are not the primary driver” for the country’s manufacturing and distribution efforts. In fact, India recently called on the World Trade Organization to use the provision provided in the Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) to grant a temporary waiver for intellectual property rights for COVID-19 vaccines so that they could be produced in greater volume. The request was not accepted.

MEANWHILE, as mentioned, India has made efforts to vaccinate its own massive population of 1.3 billion people.To date, according to the Indian Health Ministry, India has distributed more than 90 million doses to its people at an average of 2.2 million people per day.

Its daily vaccination rate is second in the world, only under the United States. However, with 1.3 billion people in the country, the campaign is expected to take months if not more than a year to complete.

Two vaccines are being used in India: AstraZeneca and its own locally developed vaccine known as Covaxin, which was created by Bharat Biotech in  association with the Indian Council of Medical Research and…



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