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India resumes vaccine exports as domestic stocks build up: Officials

One million shots of Covaxin produced by Indian company Bharat Biotech were shipped to Iran last week, the Indian embassy in Tehran said.

October 13, 2021 / 08:15 PM IST

India has resumed a small amount of exports of COVID-19 vaccines and will increase exports significantly in the next few months as domestic stocks build up and most of its own large population is inoculated, officials said on Wednesday.

One million shots of Covaxin produced by Indian company Bharat Biotech were shipped to Iran last week, the Indian embassy in Tehran said.

Vaccines have also been sent to Nepal, a government source said, adding that the effort is focused on neighbouring nations.

So far about 4 million shots have been exported, the source said, a small amount in proportion to the expansive vaccine diplomacy Prime Minister Narendra Modi's government launched this year before a second wave of infections forced a halt.

But now that three-quarters of the adult population have had one shot and a third have had both shots, India is poised to play an important role in meeting foreign nations' vaccine requirements, said V.K. Paul, who heads the government's task force on COVID-19.

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COVID-19 Vaccine

Frequently Asked Questions

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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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Also Read | Over 96 crore COVID-19 vaccine doses administered in India: Govt

"As India's needs are met, going forward there will be a generous stockpile of vaccines," Paul told reporters.

The Serum Institute is producing 220 million shots of the Oxford AstraZeneca vaccine per month, up from 150 million in August, and Bharat Biotech is supplying 30 million shots of its home-grown vaccine which is set to rise to 50 million next month, he said.

With a few other locally developed vaccines moving closer to production or clearing regulatory approvals, India is expected to be producing 300-320 million shots a month by early next year — more than the average 210 million doses it administers to its people each month, the officials said.

"A huge, huge availability of vaccines can be visualised for next year, we expect vaccines made in India to play a significant role in dealing with the pandemic across the world," Paul said.

India is the world's biggest maker of vaccines. Paul said it would in the next two or three days pass the 1 billion mark for vaccine doses administered since the start of its mass campaign to vaccinate all adult Indians.
Reuters
first published: Oct 13, 2021 08:13 pm

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