Coronavirus Vaccines

India buys 1.6b vaccine doses, said to be most in the world

It used manufacturing clout to secure three drug candidates, says Duke University study

An employee at the Pune-based Serum Institute of India (SII) working on the Oxford University and AstraZeneca vaccine last month. SII is the world's biggest vaccine producer. Of the three vaccine candidates India has booked, SII is manufacturing two
An employee at the Pune-based Serum Institute of India (SII) working on the Oxford University and AstraZeneca vaccine last month. SII is the world's biggest vaccine producer. Of the three vaccine candidates India has booked, SII is manufacturing two within India - the Oxford vaccine and the Novavax candidate.PHOTO: REUTERS

India has bought 1.6 billion doses of Covid-19 vaccines, which is more than any other country, according to a global analysis.

Using its massive manufacturing clout, the country purchased 500 million doses of the Oxford University-AstraZeneca vaccine candidate, one billion doses from American firm Novavax and 100 million doses of the Sputnik V candidate from Russia's Gamaleya Research Institute, said the US-based Duke University Global Health Innovation Centre.

India, a middle-income country, bought more doses than high-income countries, such as the US and Britain, and more than the European Union as a whole, all of which have in-country vaccine development capacity.

The EU has pre-booked 1.58 billion doses and the United States bought 1.01 billion doses.

Even before any vaccine candidates were approved by regulators, there were confirmed purchases of 7.3 billion doses, with another 2.5 billion doses under negotiation.

"Many of these countries will be able to vaccinate their entire population - and some will be able to do so many times over - before billions of people are vaccinated in low-income countries," said the Duke report.

India's 1.6 billion doses would cover 800 million people, or 60 per cent of its population.

Last month, Indian Health Minister Harsh Vardhan said an estimated 400 million to 500 million doses were to be made available to 250 million to 300 million people across the country by July-August next year.

The Duke report said that rich countries negotiated purchases by investing public funds into vaccine research and development and by using their purchasing power to strike early deals. The countries hedged their bets by purchasing multiple vaccine candidates, in case some do not materialise.

As a middle-income country, India has been able to move to the front of the queue by using another strategy: leveraging its large manufacturing infrastructure.

"Countries with manufacturing capacity, such as India and Brazil, have been successful in negotiating large advance market commitments with leading vaccine candidates as part of the manufacturing agreements," said the Duke report, which was compiled after government officials across the world - including in India - were consulted to explain their high procurement strategy.

India is the largest manufacturer of vaccines in the world, making 60 per cent of the global supply.

It is also home to the Pune-based Serum Institute of India (SII), the world's biggest vaccine producer.

Of the three vaccine candidates the South Asian country has booked, SII is manufacturing two within India - the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine and the Novavax candidate.

Of the 3.73 billion doses of the Oxford and Novavax vaccines purchased by all countries, about three billion will be made by SII.

Russia's Sputnik V vaccine is also being manufactured by Dr Reddy's Lab in Hyderabad.

India's two domestic vaccine candidates have also received approval to enter Phase 3 of their clinical trials.

Hyderabad-based Bharat Biotech and Gujarat-based Zydus-Cadila "could also add about 400 million doses annually", virologist Shahid Jameel, director of the Trivedi School of Biosciences at Ashoka University, told the Press Trust of India.

Pfizer over the weekend sought emergency use authorisation in India, followed by Astra Zeneca's Covishield vaccine, which is being manufactured in India by the SII.

Federal Health Secretary Rajesh Bhushan told a press briefing yesterday that India's Bharat Biotech has also sought emergency use authorisation for its vaccine, Covaxin. He added that some vaccine candidates may get licensed in the next few weeks.

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 09, 2020, with the headline 'India buys 1.6b vaccine doses, said to be most in the world'. Subscribe