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Explained | What medical supplies are expected to reach India and from where

A massive logistics operation is underway at Delhi, Mumbai and other airports to quickly facilitate the large amount of incoming bilateral aid from all over the world. Sources say more assistance is expected to be announced by other nations over the next few days.

April 29, 2021 / 02:20 PM IST
Russia is sending oxygen concentrators, ventilators and 22 tonnes of medical supplies to India (Image: Twitter/@mfa_russia)

Russia is sending oxygen concentrators, ventilators and 22 tonnes of medical supplies to India (Image: Twitter/@mfa_russia)

After supplying Hydroxychloroquine, Remdesivir and COVID-19 vaccines to the rest of the world for the past one year, the government has now called in requests for assistance from other nations.

As the daily tally of cases remains above the 3-lakh-mark for the eighth straight day, India continues to coordinate with other nations to receive crucial medical supplies, marking the first time in the last 16 years that India has accepted international aid.

United States: On April 28, the White House published a full fact sheet of bilateral assistance being prepared or are en route to India. While more than 300 oxygen concentrators from the US have already landed in New Delhi, 1,700 concentrators to obtain oxygen from ambient air will soon be airlifted.

An initial delivery of 1,100 cylinders has already taken place. The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has also locally procured oxygen cylinders and will deliver them to support hospital systems in coordination with the government.

Multiple large-scale oxygen generation units to support up to 20 patients each, and additional mobile units will also be dispatched to provide an ability to target specific shortages. A team of US experts will support these units, working hand-in-hand on the ground with Indian medical personnel.

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COVID-19 Vaccine

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How does a vaccine work?

A vaccine works by mimicking a natural infection. A vaccine not only induces immune response to protect people from any future COVID-19 infection, but also helps quickly build herd immunity to put an end to the pandemic. Herd immunity occurs when a sufficient percentage of a population becomes immune to a disease, making the spread of disease from person to person unlikely. The good news is that SARS-CoV-2 virus has been fairly stable, which increases the viability of a vaccine.

How many types of vaccines are there?

There are broadly four types of vaccine — one, a vaccine based on the whole virus (this could be either inactivated, or an attenuated [weakened] virus vaccine); two, a non-replicating viral vector vaccine that uses a benign virus as vector that carries the antigen of SARS-CoV; three, nucleic-acid vaccines that have genetic material like DNA and RNA of antigens like spike protein given to a person, helping human cells decode genetic material and produce the vaccine; and four, protein subunit vaccine wherein the recombinant proteins of SARS-COV-2 along with an adjuvant (booster) is given as a vaccine.

What does it take to develop a vaccine of this kind?

Vaccine development is a long, complex process. Unlike drugs that are given to people with a diseased, vaccines are given to healthy people and also vulnerable sections such as children, pregnant women and the elderly. So rigorous tests are compulsory. History says that the fastest time it took to develop a vaccine is five years, but it usually takes double or sometimes triple that time.

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The US government has also promised 15 million N95 masks to protect both patients and Indian health care personnel, 1 million rapid diagnostic tests, providing reliable results in less than 15 minutes, and a planned tranche of 20,000 doses of Remdesivir. The White House said it was also working to redirect its own order of AstraZeneca manufacturing supplies to India, allowing India to make over 20 million doses of the COVID-19 vaccine.

United Kingdom: On April 28, the United Kingdom announced that three large oxygen generation units will be dispatched from Northern Ireland. The oxygen units are each capable of producing 500 litres of oxygen per minute, enough for 50 people to use at a time.

This follows London's recent decision to send 495 oxygen concentrators and 200 ventilators to India. The first batch of these medical supplies arrived in Delhi on April 27, while the rest will be flown in by April 30.

Russia: On April 29, two Russian planes landed in New Delhi with a cargo of 20 tonnes. Further shipments are expected to carry Russia’s promised aid of 20 oxygen production units, 75 ventilators, 150 medical monitors and 2 lakh packs of medicine.

France: The French ambassador to India Emmanuel Lenain said on Tuesday that eight high capacity oxygen generators, each providing year-long oxygen for 250 beds, liquid oxygen for 2,000 patients for five days, 28 ventilators and equipment for ICUs will soon be shipped to India. Embassy officials say these are expected to land soon.

European Union: After a call for support from India, the European Union has invoked the EU Civil Protection Mechanism, which is coordinating between member-nations to send aid to India. It currently includes offers by Belgium to dispatch 9,000 doses of Remdesivir, 80 oxygen concentrators and 75 oxygen cylinders from Romania, 58 ventilators from Luxembourg, 5,503 vials of Remdesivir and 20,000 litres of oxygen per week from Portugal and 120 ventilators from Sweden and an oxygen production system from Italy.

Ireland: On the same day, the Irish Embassy in New Delhi confirmed that 700 oxygen concentrators, 365 ventilators and an oxygen generator will be shipped to India by the end of the week.

Germany: While the German government has announced it was prepping emergency aid to India, no official bilateral assistance has been announced so far. However, Germany is mobilising aid as part of the joint European efforts. Industry body Ficci has procured 1,500 oxygen concentrators from Germany.

Apollo Hospitals have also bought 1,000 oxygen concentrators through the Indian Consulate in Munich, which was brought in by Air India in the early morning of April 29. India's Armed Forces Medical Services (AFMS) is importing 23 medical oxygen plants from Germany, besides a mobile oxygen production unit.

Canada: Canada has announced that it is in the process of providing $10 million as humanitarian assistance to the Canadian Red Cross to support the Indian Red Cross Society.

Singapore: Apart from the 256 oxygen cylinders that have arrived from Singapore, cryogenic oxygen tanks are also being sent to India. There will be two more shipments of tanks being imported by Indian companies.

Thailand: The Indian Air Force has flown in two shipments of multiple large oxygen tanks from Bangkok. A third shipment is expected soon.

Mauritius: The country has sent 200 oxygen concentrators.

South Korea: Seoul has said it would provide India with oxygen concentrators, COVID-19 diagnostic kits and other items.

Bangladesh: In the immediate neighbourhood, Bangladesh is set to be the biggest source of medical aid. According to the country's Foreign Affairs Ministry, Bangladesh has offered to dispatch, on an emergency basis, medicines and medical equipment. These include approximately 10,000 vials of injectable anti-viral, oral anti-viral, 30,000 PPE kits, and several thousand zinc, calcium, Vitamin C and other necessary tablets.

Bhutan: Bhutan is set to begin supplying liquid oxygen to India from a new plant being set up in the country's Samdrup Jongkhar district. According to the Indian Embassy in Bhutan, 40 metric tonnes of liquid oxygen produced by the plant will be exported to neighbouring Assam using cryogenic tankers.
Subhayan Chakraborty

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