India to make 5 billion Covid-19 vaccine doses for the world

Health experts say there is no stopping the pandemic until there is an equal global distribution of jabs

Employees pack boxes containing vials of Covishield, a version of the AstraZeneca vaccine, at the Serum Institute of India in Pune. AP

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New Delhi is planning to manufacture and export five billion doses of Covid-19 vaccines next year in a fresh initiative to help the world fight the pandemic, the Indian government says.

India – dubbed the “world’s pharmacy” – remains a top manufacturer of vaccines globally, including doses for the coronavirus.

Commerce and Industry Minister Piyush Goyal said the country was planning to supply as many vaccines as required globally to ensure equitable availability at affordable prices to make “the world a safer place”.

“Next year, we are trying to produce 5 billion doses of the vaccines,” Mr Goyal said. “We hope to contribute to making the world a safer place to live, particularly when we are grappling with this once-in-a-century dimension Covid pandemic."

Mr Goyal said the country has emerged as a “shining example” during the pandemic as it successfully vaccinated a huge section of its population, as well as provided doses to the rest of the world.

More than 1.34 billion doses of a Covid-19 vaccine have been administered in India, with more than 80 per cent of its 945 million adult population receiving their first shot, while 50 per cent have received both.

India is producing half a million doses per day to meet its domestic and global demands after it ramped its vaccine production following a brutal wave earlier this year.

New Delhi had banned vaccine exports to provide doses to its vast population but resumed the supplies in October as infection rates dropped.

More than a million doses were exported to four countries - Bangladesh, Nepal, Myanmar and Iran - in the same month.

New Delhi is part of the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunisations that aims to provide vaccines to poor countries.

It launched its own “vaccine diplomacy” in January this year and sent about 66 million doses to 150 countries.

Health experts said there would be no stopping the pandemic until an equitable distribution of vaccines took place globally, particularly to low-income countries where just over eight per cent of people had received their first dose, compared with rich countries at 64 per cent, according to the United Nations Development Programme.

Globally, 8.1 billion doses have been administered, according to the World Health Organisation, which is expecting around 70 per cent of the global population to be vaccinated by mid-2022 to defeat the pandemic.

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Updated: December 14th 2021, 11:16 AM