Russian, Homegrown Vaccine Only Hope For India As Rich Countries Pre-Book Billions Of Expensive Doses

by Darshit Singh 3 years ago Views 16908

Russian, Homegrown Vaccines Only Hope For India As
Prime Minister Narendra Modi is on a three-city tour to review the development and manufacturing process of COVID-19 vaccines, as the pandemic rages with a fresh intensity across the world and in India. PM will be visiting top vaccine hubs in Ahmedabad, Hyderabad, and Pune. 

However, as the vaccine race heats up and a successful vaccine looks just months away, the harrowing economic inequality stares down on the poor countries who won’t be able to afford expensive vaccines from pharma giants like Pfizer or Moderna. The price of both Pfizer and Moderna vaccines ranges between $20–37 per dose, while as per the World Bank, 50% of the world’s income is less than $5 a day — making them a highly unlikely choice for the vaccination programme in India. 

That narrows down India’s choice to vaccines developed by homegrown firms like Bharat Biotech and Zydus or opt for Russia’s Sputnik V and Oxford-Astrazeneca’s vaccine - which is being developed in India with Pune’s Serum Institute.

In terms of efficacy, Moderna claims 94.5% while Pfizer and its partner, BioNTech said their vaccine is 90% effective. Sputnik V boasts of 95% effectiveness while AstraZeneca claims an efficacy of only 70%. 

Apart from the high prices of Pfizer and Moderna vaccine, extra facilities are required to store them. Pfizer’s vaccine must be stored at -70 degree Celsius - impossible for cold storage facilities in India - until a few days before it is used, but can be kept at refrigerator temperatures for a maximum of five days. Moderna’s vaccine, meanwhile, is stable at refrigerator temperatures for 30 days and requires to be kept at -20 degrees Celsius. Sputnik V and other homegrown vaccines can be kept at refrigerator temperatures for much longer.

Even if India manages to somehow pay for the US-based Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, it won’t get it anytime soon since most high-income countries and some middle-income countries have already reserved 8.8 billion vaccine doses, booking more than required, as highlighted by the Duke Global Health Innovation Center, US. 

As per official stats from the firms, 78% of the Moderna vaccine has been booked while 70% of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine had been similarly grasped already. 80% of doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine have been booked. CEO of Serum Institute of India, Adar Poonawala, has said that the price of its vaccine would be less than Rs 1,000 while Russia said that its Sputnik V will be available for less than $10 for international markets. India will be closely following the developments of these vaccines as the virus continues to claim lives across the world. 

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