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Explained: What Covid-19 Vaccine Raw Material India Needs From US; Why The Delay; What Next?

The White House, in its statement on Sunday, said the US 'has identified sources of specific raw material urgently required for Indian manufacture of the Covishield vaccine'

Explained: What Covid-19 Vaccine Raw Material India Needs From US; Why The Delay; What Next?
In India, SII makes the Covishield and plans to also make Covovax in collaboration with Novavax. Hyderabad-based Bharat Biotech manufactures the Covaxin vaccine. | File photo
Explained: What Covid-19 Vaccine Raw Material India Needs From US; Why The Delay; What Next?
outlookindia.com
2021-04-27T09:58:35+05:30

US President Joe Biden and Vice-President Kamala Harris on Sunday promised to provide India with all assistance, including urgently sending necessary medical life-saving supplies and equipment, to help the country combat the deadly coronavirus crisis.
India has been facing a surge in Covid-19 infections, with the daily case count touching 352,991 on Monday. The country recorded 2,812 deaths on Monday.

The US is under tremendous pressure to allow the export of key raw materials for the manufacture of the Covid-19 vaccine to India. The Biden administration issued a statement that US National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan spoke to National Security Advisor Ajit Doval on Friday and offered to deploy resources and supplies to boost the production of Covid-19 vaccines. He also said the US will supply rapid diagnostic test kits, ventilators, and Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) to India. The announcement came after Britain, France and Germany pledged aid to India over the weekend.

Here’s what the US will send to India and how it will help in the Covid-19 fight:

The White House, in its statement on Sunday, said the US “has identified sources of specific raw material urgently required for Indian manufacture of the Covishield vaccine”. It didn’t specify what the raw materials it was sending were. US Surgeon General Dr Vivek Murthy, too, tweeted: “Aid extended by the U.S. to India includes… Raw material for vaccine production…”

According to a report by the World Trade Organization with respect to the composition of Covid-19 vaccines, “An average antibody-producing plant will use in the area of 9,000 distinct materials sourced from exactly 300 providers across roughly 30 unique nations.”

Adar Poonawalla, Chief Executive Officer of Serum Institute of India (SII), which manufactures Covishield, the AstraZeneca-Oxford University vaccine, had earlier indicated that some of the supplies needed included bags and filters. In a report, Poonawalla was quoted saying, “There are lot of bags and filters and critical items that manufacturers need. I will give you an example. The Novavax vaccine that we are a major manufacturer of, need these items from the US…” 

Which vaccines in India need these raw materials?

In India, SII makes the Covishield and plans to also make Covovax in collaboration with Novavax. Hyderabad-based Bharat Biotech manufactures the Covaxin vaccine.

Poonawalla had told The Indian Express that the vaccine industry, outside the US, needs plastic bags, filters, and media solutions which are critical in the manufacturing of the Covid-19 vaccine.

He has also reportedly said the restrictions have halved the number of doses of Covovax that SII can stockpile. SII had earlier said the restrictions would not affect its current production of Covishield, but “may” impact “the scaling up of Covishield’s future capacity”.

In a Twitter post, tagging the US President, Poonawalla said: “Respected @POTUS, if we are to truly unite in beating this virus, on behalf of the vaccine industry outside the US, I humbly request you to lift the embargo of raw material exports out of the U.S. so that vaccine production can ramp up. Your administration has the details.”

Why didn’t the US not send these raw materials earlier?

Joe Biden and his predecessor Donald Trump had invoked the war-time Defence Production Act (DPA), which leaves US companies with no option but to give priority to the production of Covid-19 vaccines and Personal Protective Equipment (PPEs) for domestic production to combat the deadly pandemic in America, the worst-hit nation.

The suppliers of the Covid-19 vaccines’ raw materials, which is in high demand globally and sought after by major Indian manufacturers, are being forced to provide it only for domestic manufacturers in the US. The Serum Institute of India is the world’s largest producer of the Covid-19 vaccine.

Will the US be sending just raw material or also the additional stockpile of Covishield they have?

The White House statement, which was issued on Sunday, about sending raw material for the Covid-19 vaccine to India did not mention sending surplus vaccines. The US has around 30 million doses of the AstraZeneca-Oxford University vaccine, which the Serum Institute of India (SII) manufactures under the name Covishield in India.

There have been voices expressing concern over the US not releasing vaccines from its stockpile for India. Congressman Ro Khanna and Raja Krishnamoorthi had called for the Biden administration to release millions of AstraZeneca Vaccines to hardest-hit Covid countries, including India.

With agencies inputs

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