A special report by Moneycontrol has confirmed that the Centre has decided against banning the commercial export of Covid-19 vaccines by the two manufacturers based in India.
This development comes ahead of a government meeting which is going to be held today to discuss this issue. Sources have told MoneyControl that the meeting involving senior officials from various ministries is being held a day after the Department of Pharmaceuticals announced a ban on the export of the Remdesivir drug and its active pharmaceutical ingredients as demand for both has risen in the treatment of patients amid a second covid wave.
The ban on the exports of the covid vaccine was proposed following a rapid surge in coronavirus cases across India. Reports of acute shortage of vaccine doses in many States also prompted calls to stop the export of the Covishield vaccine manufactured by Pune’s Serum Institute of India and Covaxin, made by Hyderabad-based Bharat Biotech International.
A week back, Congress leader Rahul Gandhi had written to the PM asking for an immediate freeze on exports.
Explaining the government’s stance on the ban of exports, a senior trade dept official told Moneycontrol, “Banning exports will affect the global standing of India as a hub for vaccine manufacturing. It will also erode our reputation as an ally of the bloc of smaller, economically less-developed nations since many of the commercial orders are to entities coordinating vaccine relief efforts on an international scale,”.
In addition, officials also pointed to the possibility of the two Indian manufacturers drowning in lawsuits and foreign penalties if they fail to honour their contracts and deliver shipments.
As per media reports, the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunisation (GAVI), which runs the global COVAX initiative, had ordered about 90 million doses in March and April. Honouring its pact, vaccine producers in India sent out 1.8 crore doses till now.
However, with India caught in the throes of a Covid second wave, GAVI recently said it fears the supply pipeline thinning as manufacturers might shift their vaccine supplies towards the domestic arena.
Apart from commercial exports and the COVAX initiative, Made in India vaccines have also been sent to foreign nations as part of the ‘Vaccine Maitri’ initiative, through the government’s global development grants to poorer nations.
As per a report by Moneycontrol on April 9, India has decided to stop the direct grant of Covid-19 vaccines to other countries. Sources in the Ministry of External Affairs also confirmed that the programme has been put on hold for one month or until the supply of vaccines for domestic requirements reaches an optimal level.
According to sources, the two Indian producers have till now exported 3.57 crore doses to foreign governments and companies. However, they are yet to complete many pending orders.