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  • India is embarking on one of the world's most ambitious

  • coronavirus vaccine programmes.

  • Central to this effort is the Serum Institute

  • of India, the world's largest vaccine manufacturer

  • here in Pune.

  • As a major pharma player India has the advantage

  • of huge manufacturing capacity.

  • Along with inoculating its own population,

  • India plans to export the vaccine to the developing

  • world.

  • But the government faces key challenges.

  • Rolling out the vaccine quickly across a diverse country

  • is a huge operation.

  • Convincing people from all walks of life to take the vaccine

  • is a major challenge.

  • What's more, the approval of its homegrown vaccines

  • has already proved controversial.

  • And the first days of India's vaccine rollout

  • have been slow, underscoring the difficult path ahead.

  • Indian government realised very early that it's one

  • of our strengths to manufacture a vaccine and supply in large

  • quantities.

  • India is one of the world's biggest manufacturers

  • of vaccines.

  • Two vaccines have been approved by the government so far,

  • Covaxin and developed by Bharat Biotech

  • and the state-run Indian Council of Medical Research,

  • and Covishield, the locally produced version of the Oxford

  • AstraZeneca vaccine.

  • There are several more in the pipeline based

  • on different technologies, including

  • one from Bangalore-based Mynvax that doesn't

  • need to be refrigerated.

  • In the developing world that could be a game changer.

  • For India, administering the vaccine to 1.4bn people is

  • a far bigger challenge than sourcing supply.

  • The government wants to vaccinate 300m people by July,

  • about a fifth of the population.

  • Official data shows more than 75 per cent of people

  • have not yet been exposed to coronavirus.

  • In the first two weeks of the vaccine programme India

  • inoculated over 3.5m people.

  • The vaccination programme is focusing on healthcare

  • and frontline workers first, and then people aged over 50.

  • More than availability, I personally feel that, you know,

  • vaccine hesitancy is going to be a challenge, actually.

  • Another huge challenge is to convince people

  • that the vaccines are actually safe.

  • Even healthcare workers are scared of taking the jab.

  • India's poor, who make up the majority of the population,

  • are far more concerned about the daily health

  • challenges they face from poor sanitation and hunger.

  • Convincing them that coronavirus is a priority

  • will be hard, despite being among the hardest hit

  • by the economic impact from the virus.

  • We have not seen that many deaths

  • due to Covid as we have seen because

  • of hunger, at least in India.

  • So for poor, it's not, I mean, they

  • are not really concerned about whether they

  • will get vaccinated or not.

  • India started its national vaccine rollout in mid-January,

  • but New Delhi is already looking beyond its borders.

  • The government sees an opportunity to boost its soft

  • power by supplying millions of doses of made in India vaccines

  • to its neighbours as gifts, as well as securing commercial

  • deals with countries, including Mongolia, Canada,

  • and Saudi Arabia.

  • India is also a significant contributor to the Gavi Vaccine

  • Alliance, which provides vaccines

  • to children all over the world.

  • Under its COVAX programme, India will supply a further 10m Covid

  • vaccine doses to Africa and a million doses to the UN.

  • India will even be sending vaccines to Pakistan

  • through COVAX in spite of their hostile relationship.

  • The soft power push has coincided

  • with questions over the efficacy of China's Sinovac vaccine.

  • Chinese companies are aggressively

  • marketing their products around the world

  • and have signed commercial deals with more than a dozen

  • countries.

  • The Modi government has made big promises

  • about its coronavirus vaccines, but delivering on them

  • will be hard.

  • Like China, India hopes to use its manufacturing capacity

  • to bolster its international standing.

  • At stake is not just the health of its people,

  • but whether the country gets a much needed injection

  • of confidence to start recovering from the wider

  • impact of the pandemic.

India is embarking on one of the world's most ambitious

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India, Covid-19 and vaccine politics | FT

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    joey joey posted on 2021/05/23
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