Last Updated on January 26, 2021 by The Health Master
NEW DELHI: On a wintry morning earlier this week, as the country shivered from a drop in mercury levels, loaders at Mumbai airport gingerly passed along boxes of vaccines, marked ‘fragile’, into the waiting hold of an Air India flight.
The aircraft would be the first of many carrying ‘Made in India’ C-19 vaccines from Poona’s Serum Institute to capitals in countries far and wide to help combat the global pandemic.
In the years ahead, analysts and business historians would probably call this the defining moment of India’s economic diplomacy. Some 4.9 million doses are being sent as gifts to neighbours, while millions more are being exported for profit.
“The vaccine flights are helping bolster our position as a reliable medicine manufacturing power.
As it is, the pandemic helped push Indian Pharma exports by 20 per cent and we are expecting to end the year with $25 billion sales… with this we can expect even better growth in the coming financial year,” said Prof Biswajit Dhar of JNU, a former member of the Board of Trade.
Except Pakistan, which has opted for China’s Sinovac vaccine, India’s “supplies under grant assistance” are being shipped to all neighbouring countries including Bangladesh, Nepal, Bhutan, Maldives, Myanmar, Afghanistan, Sri Lanka, Mauritius and Seychelles.
India has also contracted to sell Covishield, the vaccine developed by Oxford-Astra Xeneca and manufactured by Serum Institute of India, to Brazil, Morocco, South Africa, and Saudi Arabia, with flights carrying the precious cargo taking off to these countries last Friday. Exports to more nations are to follow.
“Despite our growing strength, there was an undercurrent of propaganda in the global market about the reliability of our medicines ever since the US Food and Drugs regulator (USFDA) started dishing out notices to Indian drug companies.
However, by becoming a reliable vaccine maker, we can now counter that propaganda effectively,” said Siddhartha Dasgupta, Advisor, East India Pharmaceuticals.
India has become the preferred partner for vaccine sales partly because reports on rival China’s vaccine candidates are unclear, according to medical experts, and partly since prices at between $3-5 a dose are among the lowest globally.
Meant to rival China’s offerings, India’s ‘gifts’ and paid for vaccines have not only helped India sell its soft power—earning thanks from Brazilian President J M Bolsonaro among others—but also push its stature as the “pharmacy of the world” throughout the world.
The shipments began within 3 days of India starting its own massive inoculation drive.
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