The Central Board of Indirect Taxes and Customs (CBIC) has notified duty exemption on COVID-19 vaccines for three months from October 1, 2021, to December 31, 2021.
This means the Government of India has fully exempted the import of COVID-19 vaccines from basic customs duty till the end of this year.
The move is expected to boost the domestic availability of COVID-19 vaccines and also make them cheaper.
A notification issued by the Board on September 29 read: “The Central Government, on being satisfied that it is necessary in the public interest to do so, hereby exempts the goods of the description specified when imported into India, from the whole of the duty of customs leviable.”
In the notification, the CBIC specified “COVID-19 vaccine”, indicating all vaccine imports to India will be exempt from customs duty till December 31, 2021.
Frequently Asked Questions
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.
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.
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.
Earlier this year in April, the Centre had exempted imports of coronavirus vaccines from customs duty for three months. Following the conclusion of this three-month period, a 10 percent customs duty was being charged on vaccines, which will no longer be charged from tomorrow.
So, COVID-19 vaccines will now only attract a five percent goods and services tax (GST).
Currently, India imports Russia made Sputnik V vaccine. India has granted Emergency Use Approval to five vaccines – Serum Institute's Covishield, Bharat Biotech's Covaxin, Russia's Sputnik V, Moderna, and Johnson & Johnson.
(With PTI inputs)Follow our coverage of the coronavirus crisis here