PM Modi promises more India-made Covid-19 vaccines in address at WEF event

Vials of Covishield vaccine being prepared at India's Serum Institute in Pune on Jan 22, 2021. PHOTO: AFP

NEW DELHI - As countries scramble to ensure a supply of Covid-19 vaccines, Prime Minister Narendra Modi promised more India-made vaccines for the world.

In a special address on Thursday (Jan 28) at the World Economic Forum's virtual event, The Davos Agenda, Mr Modi highlighted the positive role India has played during the pandemic and underlined how the South Asian country could be a driver of global growth.

He also wooed foreign investors, assuring them of an improved business climate and pointing out that India could play a key role in strengthening global supply chains.

Mr Modi's promise of more India-made vaccines comes amid a scramble for Covid-19 vaccines, with richer countries accused of hoarding doses and poorer ones still unable to access them.

"While so far only two made-in-India corona vaccines have been introduced to the world, in the near future, many more vaccines will be available from India. These vaccines will help us in assisting countries across the world faster and on a much bigger scale," he said.

India has approved two vaccines for emergency use: Covishield, by AstraZeneca and Oxford University, and Covaxin, developed by local firm Bharat Biotech.

"When the coronavirus had just started, we were procuring masks, PPE kits and testing kits from overseas. Today, not only are we fulfilling our domestic demand, we are also sending these to other countries and thereby serving their citizens also," Mr Modi added.

He noted that the country had beaten the odds after early predictions about how more than half of its population would be infected. India has more than 10.7 million cases.

The country, which has seen a steady decrease in cases in the past four months, has rolled out what its leaders say is the biggest vaccination programme in the world.

The government plans to vaccinate 300 million healthcare and front-line workers, along with senior citizens and those with existing illnesses in the coming months.

Mr Modi said in 12 days, India vaccinated more than 2.3 million of its health workers.

The world's third-largest producer of drugs has also begun sending vaccines to countries such as the Maldives, Bhutan, Seychelles and Mauritius.

On Thursday, it sent 500,000 doses of Covishield to Sri Lanka, and is expected to be a key source of the vaccine for middle- and low-income countries.

The Indian leader also made a strong pitch for attracting investments, the key to pushing the country's economic growth.

Like other countries around the world, India has been hit hard by the pandemic and has felt the effects of the global recession, but recovery has been better than expected.

The International Monetary Fund projected an 11.5 per cent growth for India in 2021 after a strong recovery last year.

"I also assure the business world that on the economic front also the situation will now change rapidly. Even during the coronavirus pandemic by starting infrastructure projects worth trillions of rupees and by implementing special schemes for employment, India kept its economic activity going," said Mr Modi.

Among other things, the Indian government has offered production-linked incentives of 1.45 trillion rupees (S$26.4 billion) for manufacturers in 10 sectors including cars, pharmaceuticals and food products.

Mr Modi has urged "atmanirbhar", or self-reliance in manufacturing following the pandemic.

He noted that India's economic performance and effort to push self-reliance in manufacturing would have global ramifications and that the country's expanding consumer base would be most "beneficial for the global economy".

"The ease of doing business situation is continuously improving. Work is being done to further improve this," he said.

Join ST's Telegram channel and get the latest breaking news delivered to you.