Centre lobbied at WTO for access to foreign vaccines, but sat on licensing Covaxin for months

The Centre took more than six months to put its act together on the domestic front and shortlisted three PSUs only by April 2021 for the technology transfer of Covaxin.

s the delayed response to ramp up vaccine production by the Centre a reason why India is failing to timely vaccinate its youth? India Today TV has learned that the Government of India tied up with South Africa in October last year at the World Trade Organisation (WTO) to propose relaxation in norms to ensure quick access to vaccines for developing countries.

On the other hand, the Centre took more than six months to put its act together on the domestic front and shortlisted three PSUs only by April 2021 for the technology transfer of Covaxin, which has been developed by the Bharat Biotech and Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR).

In October last year, India had teamed up with South Africa to seek a waiver from certain provisions of the Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights Agreement (TRIPS Agreement) with a view to facilitating wider access to technologies necessary for the production of vaccines and medicines.

In its appeal to the TRIPS Council, the Government of India had argued that intellectual property rights may hinder the rapid scaling up of manufacturing of affordable vaccines and medicines to patients, particularly in the developing world.

Licensing at last
While the Centre lobbied to get its hands on foreign vaccines, it did little to ramp up the production of homegrown vaccines. Since Serum Institute of India's Covishield was developed under the international partnership, invoking compulsory licensing involved legalities.

Also Read | Delhi runs dry of Covaxin stock for 18-44 age group, 100 centres to remain shut

However, there was no such issue with Covaxin. Serum Institute's capacity to manufacture 5 crore doses/month and Bharat Biotech's 90 doses/month were no match to India's mammoth vaccine demand. But Centre did not invoke compulsory licensing to facilitate its transfer of technology to allow eligible companies to produce the vaccine.

It was only after Covid-19 cases started spiraling in the first week of April that the Modi government began putting its act together and shortlisted three PSUs by mid-April for technology transfer.

Haffkine Corporation, a state PSE under the Government of Maharashtra will have a capacity of 2 crore doses/month by September. Indian Immunologicals Limited (IIL), Hyderabad, a facility under National Dairy Development Board and Bharat Immunologicals and Biologicals Limited (BIBCOL) Bulandshahr, under Department of Biotechnology, Government of India will also be supported to prepare their facility to provide 1-1.5 crore doses/month by August-September 2021.

CMs demand more vaccine production
Over the past 24 hours, Delhi and Andhra Pradesh chief ministers have appealed to the Prime Minister to allow private companies to ramp up Covaxin production. In April, former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had raised a similar demand in his letter to PM Narendra Modi.

Also Read | Parliament panel had asked govt to ramp up vaccine production in March

Prof Gaurav Vallabh, Congress spokesperson told India Today TV, “When the entire world was booking vaccines last year, our government was asking us to clap, our Prime Minister was saying we have defeated coronavirus. We have missed many trains and today if we increase capacity, it will not have an instant result. Due to this, we are seeing bodies floating in Ganga river today.”

Contesting the allegations, BJP spokesperson Sambit Patra said, “Biosafety level 3 is required to contain the virus, which is available with Bharat Biotech since the formula is based on an alive virus, ICMR is also in talks with few other companies to scale up production.”

Patra added, “The Centre has allocated Rs 200 crore for supporting the augmentation of capacities for manufacturing. India will be producing 10 crore Covaxin doses per month by end of this year.”


Tags : #CentralGovernment #Covaxin #ForeignCovidVaccines #ICMR #BharatBiotech #SerumInstitute

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