COVAX short 90 million doses as India focuses on harrowing domestic wave . . .
As it delays its nationwide immunization drive to battle the world’s worst COVID-19 wave, India’s vaccine shortages and export ban have significantly delayed global vaccine distribution. For Canadians, one million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine slated to arrive last week from the Serum Institute of India (SII), the world’s largest vaccine manufacturer, will be delayed until the summer, at the earliest. But the greatest impact of the crisis in India is befalling developing countries that rely on the COVAX initiative, the global vaccine distribution effort spearheaded by the World Health Organization. Of the 49 million COVAX doses distributed so far, more than half (29 million) were produced by the SII. India’s ban on vaccine exports has cost the global initiative more than 90 million doses in April, with the shortage expected to grow, as India is not expected to lift the ban anytime soon. The ‘India factor’ will render the WHO’s goal of distributing 237 million doses by the end of this month all but unattainable.
China, India set up potentially rivalling supply alliances . . .
Cut off from Indian vaccines and supplies, other South Asian countries have accepted Beijing’s offer to establish an emergency supplies reserve. Though invited, India has declined to join. Meanwhile, India, Japan, and Australia have launched their own Supply Chain Resilience Initiative to secure supply chains for critical goods, a perceived attempt to shift vaccine reliance away from China. Both Beijing and New Delhi have voiced concerns about the other’s actions, criticizing them as attempts to win influence rather than support humanitarian efforts.
Global vaccine equity remains elusive . . .
Amidst the shortfall of Indian vaccines, countries like France and Sweden have committed to donating approximately two million doses to COVAX, while Moderna has pledged 34 million doses by the end of the year. Chinese vaccines are slated to enter the initiative’s distribution chain soon, which could make 10 million additional doses available. But the scheme still requires more doses and funding of some C$55 billion through next year. Bilateral donations and other international initiatives could bridge some of these gaps. However, the number of vaccines delivered through these channels pales compared to COVAX’s ambitions and often does not target the countries most in need.