The Union government has allowed commercial export of Covishield and Covaxin considering the sufficient stock of the COVID-19 vaccines available with states and Union Territories as well as with manufacturers, official sources said on Thursday. However, the quantity of Covid vaccines to be exported will be decided by the government every month to ensure there is no dearth of domestic availability.
India recently resumed Covid vaccine supply to the UN-backed COVAX with the government allowing Serum Institute of India (SII) to export 50 Lakh doses of Covishield to Nepal, Tajikistan, Bangladesh and Mozambique. The Covishield shipment will reach Nepal and Tajikistan this week.
"More than 22.72 crore balance and unutilized COVID-19 vaccine doses are still available with the states and Union Territories. The vaccine production is increasing and there will be surplus supplies. "Keeping this in mind, a decision has been taken to allow commercial export of Covishield and Covaxin," an official source told PTI.
Prakash Kumar Singh, Director, Government and Regulatory Affairs at SII had recently communicated to the Union Health Ministry that the Pune-based firm has 24,89,15,000 doses of Covishield and the stock is increasing every day. The official, however stressed, "The quantity of vaccines to be exported will be decided by the government on a monthly basis to ensure that domestic availability is not hampered in any way."
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.
About 31 crore doses of Covishield and Covaxin are expected to be received by the government from SII and Bharat Biotech in December, while Zydus Cadila is likely to supply around two crore jabs of its three-dose Covid vaccine ZyCoV-D by that time. The government recently permitted the export of 2 crore doses of COVID-19 vaccine Covovax, produced in India by SII, to Indonesia. The jab is yet to be approved for emergency use in the country, according to official sources.The first shipment of Covovax will reach Indonesia this week.