The PM announced victory over Coronavirus in Davos in front of the whole world in January 2021. In February 2021, at the inauguration of a private medical college, Union Home Minister Amit Shah said, “India is set to fulfil 70% of the world’s coronavirus vaccine needs. The world’s largest vaccination program was launched in India. Two vaccines are ready, four more vaccinations are in the pipeline.”
Little did we know then that we would not even be able to fulfil our own needs, leave alone that of the world.
Lack of planning
While almost every country in the world planned the development, production and distribution of vaccines many months back, our government did not focus on it until very late.
We placed our first order for a mere 11 million Covishield and 5.5 million Covaxin doses as late as January, 2021. For the vaccination drive for 18 plus people which was to begin on the May 1, the government placed an order for 110 million doses of SII’s Covishield and 50 million doses of Covaxin, India’s home-grown Covid-19 vaccine, only on April 28.
It was the EU that invested $210 million with AstraZeneca and Oxford to develop the vaccine known as Covishield, and it was our luck that AZ chose Serum Institute of India (SII) to manufacture it.
The Government of India did not give any support to either of the manufacturers to develop the vaccines or to help scale up manufacturing operations.
On May 11, the Union Government submitted an affidavit in the SC stating clearly, “No governmental aid, assistance or grant is made either for research or development of either Covaxin or Covishield. However, they were given some financial assistance for conducting clinical trials.” It clarified that the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) spent only Rs 46 crore on clinical trials of the two vaccines.