While India has banned exports of COVID-19 vaccines, the United States (US) has imposed restrictions on export of raw material for the vaccines. Such a restriction, according to the International Monetary Fund (IMF), will delay the inoculation process in developing countries.
The IMF unveiled a $50 billion plan to vaccinate all eligible people around the world by mid-2022 on Friday. In the report, IMF proposed an investment programme that could have a global economic benefit of around $9 trillion.
In the plan, pointing out the challenges, IMF said, “...various manufacturers including the Serum Institute of India (SII) (licensed to manufacture Novavax and AstraZeneca) have experienced substantial delays. Some of these delays can be attributed to ongoing export restrictions placed by the US as part of the Defense Production Act to secure its own vaccine supply chain. In addition, India has delayed most of its vaccine exports to prioritize vaccinations at home. Such delays disproportionately impact developing countries…”
SII is contracted to supply about 85 per cent of the supplies to the COVAX AMC facility. But the persistent shortage of raw materials and export restrictions can reduce access to vaccines for 4 billion people in 91 developing countries plus India relying on this facility, the plan pointed out.
The IMF also stated the concerns about safety—genuine or otherwise— of the AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson (J&J) vaccines have led to temporary halts in various jurisdictions. “There is growing evidence that such halts have contributed to vaccine hesitancy.”
The developing world is heavily relying on adenovirus-based vaccines. For instance, a country like India relies on three developers — AstraZeneca, J&J, or Sputnik V — who use the same platform technology and are thus exposed to similar risks. “Thus, safety concerns in this class of vaccines could significantly impact vaccine rollout and exacerbate the cross-country inequality in vaccine access.”
The IMF stated the way forward in the case of India and the US will be to relax constraints. While the US pledged to facilitate greater access of critical raw material to Indian manufacturers after severe shortages emerged, India will have to maintain no restrictions on exports. “Greater access to critical raw materials — combined with a commitment by Indian authorities to maintain no restrictions on exports once near- term shortages ease — will also enable the Serum Institute of India (currently the chief supplier to COVAX) to meet its export commitments, which is important for the path to global vaccination.”