India stands ready to "expeditiously" send more COVID-19 vaccine to Africa to help fight the Omicron variant, New Delhi said late on Monday after China pledged 1 billion doses to the continent.
India and China have close ties with many African countries but Beijing has pumped much more money into the region, and on Monday promised to invest another $10 billion.
India said it had supplied more than 25 million doses of domestically made shots to 41 African countries, mostly through the global vaccine-distribution network COVAX.
"The Government of India stands ready to support the countries affected in Africa in dealing with the Omicron variant, including by supplies of Made-in-India vaccines," the foreign ministry said in a statement.
"Supplies can be undertaken through COVAX or bilaterally."
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.
It said the government had cleared all orders placed by COVAX for supplies of the AstraZeneca vaccine to countries such as Malawi, Ethiopia, Zambia, Mozambique, Guinea and Lesotho, apart from delivering doses of the home-grown Covaxin shot to Botswana. It did not say how many doses have been approved recently.
"Any new requirement projected either bilaterally or through COVAX will be considered expeditiously," it said, also promising the supply of life-saving drugs, test kits, gloves, PPE kits and medical equipment such as ventilators as required.
India last month resumed overseas shipments of COVID-19 vaccines for the first time since April, when it banned exports to inoculate its own citizens as infections surged.