NEW DELHI (AP) – Indian health professionals and activists said on Friday that it was hypocritical to blame Britain for vaccine delays at the Indian Serum Institute amid a debate over fair access to high-profile London officials’ comments.
Activists say the Serum Institute was not designed to make vaccines for rich countries like Britain, so that after collecting the vaccines, London is now trying to reach supply chains designed for poorer countries. However, the exact details of the serum institute’s AstraZeneca licensing agreements are not known.
“Hyp is a deep level of hypocrisy and self-serving behavior,” said Malini Aisola of the All India Drug Network, which specializes in healthcare.
According to KM Gopakumar of the Third World Network Advocacy Group, the serum institute is licensed to supply billions of doses to developing countries, while vaccines made in Europe were designed for richer countries like the UK. “Commitment to broad, equitable access.”
On Thursday, British Health Minister Matt Hancock said that the delayed delivery of AstraZeneca vaccines by the Serum Institute, in addition to the need to re-test them, would delay its immunization program. The same day, Prime Minister Boris John Onson said the country would receive fewer vaccines than planned a week ago, in part because of a shortage of the Serum Institute.
The UK deal to import 10 million doses of vaccine from India was part of the 100 million doses previously ordered from AstraZeneca, announced on March 4. Britain says the Serum Institute has assured that these doses will not jeopardize supplies to poor countries.
At the same time, the Serum Institute said there was no “set schedule” for delivering the vaccines, that it had already shipped 5 million doses a few weeks ago. The rest will be sent later, but will depend on India’s own requirements, the institute said.
The Indian government has not officially commented on the vaccine delay in Britain.
At the same time, vaccine manufacturers and experts in India are concerned that the United States is not allowing sufficient supplies of vaccines to be exported under the Defense Production Act. Although the Serum Institute confirmed that this was not a factor in delaying vaccine doses in Britain, they said it was a major obstacle to progress.
President of the Public Health Foundation of India Dr. K. Srinat Redin said blocking any raw materials needed to make vaccines could reduce the world’s ability to make vaccines.
“It will disrupt the industry,” Red said.
The need for vaccines in India is likely to increase, he added. So far, the country has focused on immunizing the most vulnerable. But as the months go by, with the rise in infections, India needs to include other age groups with the highest incidence, he said.
And scale is where the serum institute comes into play. The company’s capacity to increase production was supported by a $ 750 million grant from the Gavi և vaccine alliance, the Coalition of Epidemiological Innovations, with approximately 60 million doses of vaccine per month. It aims to increase that number to 100 million by April.
But India’s domestic needs will hinder even this increased capacity, says Gopakumar of the Third World Network. He estimated that India needed at least 900 million people to be vaccinated to vaccinate 70% of its population.
“They are asking for vaccines from the beggars’ bowl,” he said.
Associated Press writers Ashok Sharman in New Delhi Մ Maria Cheng in London contributed to this report.
The Associated Press Health Science Department is supported by the Science Education Department of Howard Hughes Medical Institute. The AP is solely responsible for all content.