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How India’s vaccine collection collapsed and left a country in chaos

(Bloomberg) – When India launched its Covid-19 vaccination campaign in mid-January, the odds of success were high: it could produce more vaccines than any country in the world and had decades of experience in immunizing pregnant women and babies in rural areas. “Our preparation was such that the vaccine quickly reached all corners of the country,” Prime Minister Narendra Modi said on January 22. “Regarding the greatest need in the world today, we are totally autonomous. Not only that, India is also helping many countries with vaccines. A little over three months later, that initial promise has evaporated and the government’s plans are in disarray. India has fully immunized less than 2% of its population of 1.3 billion, immunization centers across the country say they are running out of doses and exports have all but ceased. Rather than building protection, the South Asian nation is setting daily records for new infections as a second wave overwhelms hospitals and crematoriums. Modi’s response has been to abruptly change strategy on vaccines and supplies . Initially, the federal government negotiated prices with manufacturers, distributed them to states, and restricted them to priority groups like seniors and healthcare workers. Starting May 1, anyone over 18 is eligible for a vaccine, while state governments and private hospitals can purchase doses directly from manufacturers for people 18 to 45 – sparking a desperate rush to get vaccines in an already short market. . His government says the new rules make “pricing, procurement, eligibility and administration of vaccines open and flexible.” Health experts and officials in opposition-controlled states say the plan passes responsibility to regional governments rather than directly tackling the pandemic. The expanding rollout plans are also questionable when India runs out of stocks, developers like Serum Institute of India Ltd. claiming that the United States has accumulated ingredients and that new supplies could be in months. with state governments before asking states to procure vaccines themselves, ”said TS Singh Deo, Chhattisgarh state health minister. “As a state, we will have to buy vaccines on the open market, which seriously compromises our finances.” Given India’s growing strategic importance, its wave of infections not only risks the nascent recovery of Asia’s third-largest economy, but attempts to curb Covid -19 and recover globally. The country is now the main hotspot for the pandemic, despite being home to the world’s largest vaccine maker. “The vaccination program should really be a priority,” said Raina MacIntyre, professor of biosafety at the University of New South Wales in Sydney. “Getting people vaccinated will also reduce the selective pressure for the emergence of new strains.” Although it is easy to identify now, the Modi government has missed opportunities to focus on supporting vaccine production and expanding its decrepit health system. Over-reliance on app-based technology made it difficult to enroll its poor and rural citizens, and Modi’s plan did not use the army of one million health workers. trained in India – the Accredited Social Health Activists, or ASHAs – to reach out to its vast rural hinterland, a strategy that made its polio vaccination such a success. Davos summit that India would help other countries with vaccines, the daily number of cases was 18,885 that day – up from 379,257 on Thursday. At that time, Serum and other vaccine developers were already warning of shortages and pointing the finger at the United States. India has slowed vaccine exports and extended domestic vaccines to those 45 and over. was going pretty much as usual. Millions of pilgrims took a dip in the holy Ganges river during the Hindu religious festival Kumbh Mela, while political parties staged mass rallies in five state elections. Less than six weeks later, Health Minister Harsh Vardhan said: Covid-19 pandemic in India. Even on March 30, when cases were on the rise again, Vardhan insisted that “the situation is under control.” “There is no Covid in Assam,” said Himanta Biswa Sarma, a member of Modi’s party who is the state’s health minister. April 3. “It is no longer necessary to wear a face mask now.” On April 16, the dose shortages had become so acute that Adar Poonawalla, chief executive of Serum, tweeted directly to President Joe Biden asking him to lift the United States. Embargo on exports of raw materials. Burden on the State Three days later, Modi abandoned his vaccination strategy and cast the burden on the states – many of whom are frustrated. India has effectively stopped shipping vaccines to other parts of the world, prompting its neighbors to seek help from China. Kerala State Finance Minister in southern India, Thomas Isaac, called Modi’s new vaccination plan a “smart political ploy” rather than a solution. There has been no coordination or consultation on how the immunization policy will work, ”said Balbir Singh Sidhu, the health minister of the northern Punjab state of Congress, headed by the Congressman. Congress. “Everything is from top to bottom.” A spokesperson for India’s health ministry did not respond to calls and emails seeking comment. A big question now is how India can increase its supply to provide vaccines to an additional 600 million people. Shortages are already apparent in the current immunization schedule for people aged 45 and over, leading to steadily declining immunization rates across the country, even as more than 10 million people signed up for doses during the campaign. the campaign opens on Wednesday. two vaccine suppliers – the Serum Institute, which produces the AstraZeneca Plc vaccine; and Bharat Biotech International Ltd., doing a nationally developed inoculation, told them they could expect supplies for provincial governments from mid-May, although eligible people can sign up for injections from April 28. and Bharat Biotech said they could only increase capacity in July, with existing stock being split equally between the center and the states. New Delhi has cleared the Russian Sputnik V for emergency use and reports indicate some imports could arrive by May, but there are no details on the quantity. The United States has promised to send equipment to India to make vaccines and share its stockpile of Astra vaccines, but details are unclear. Then there is the cost. State governments have been told they are expected to pay between $ 5 and $ 8 for injections, up to three times what the federal government pays. After an outcry over the hikes, Bharat Biotech announced on Thursday that it would reduce the amount charged to states to Rs 400. ($ 5.4) a dose of 600 rupees, a day after Serum CEO Adar Poonawalla said his company would cut prices by 100 rupees. will spend 65 billion rupees to vaccinate its residents for free, but cannot expand the program to all adults at this time because it does not have sufficient doses. India was already one of the few countries to allow sales private of Covid-19 vaccines, when it that private hospitals begin to vaccinate at a fixed price of around $ 3 per dose. Now the cost has dropped to between $ 8 and $ 16 per dose, which means they are administering them at even higher prices. “There should be a price for vaccines all over India,” tweeted Arvind Subramanian, former chief economic adviser to the Modi administration. weekend. “This price should be zero.” (Updates with vaccine price cuts in paragraph 24.) For more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com Subscribe now to stay ahead with the most popular source of business information. reliable. © 2021 Bloomberg LP

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