By Linus Garg
First publised on 2021-05-14 01:29:06
Nearly a month after Prime Minister Modi first talked about using the entire vaccine manufacturing capacity in the country to produce the Covid vaccines and former prime minister and Congress leader Dr Manmohan Singh urged the government to invoke compulsory licensing provisions to allow all capable manufacturers to produce the vaccines, the government has invited all vaccine manufacturers in India to produce the indigenously developed (by ICMR and Bharat Biotech) Covaxin that is currently being made only by Bharat Biotech. NITI Aayog member Dr V K Paul said that Bharat Biotech has agreed to this arrangement.
This is a good move as it will help the government procure more doses from additional and captive sources at an attractive price. But it is regrettable that it took the government one month to take this decision. Under normal circumstances, such delays are part and parcel of both governance and corporate negotiations. But when there is a pandemic situation, the Disaster Management Act is in force and vaccines are in short supply threatening to derail the vaccine drive, one thinks decisions need to be taken on war footing. Such delays cannot be condoned in these troubled times.
But there is a stumbling block in the process as not all vaccine manufacturers in India have a BSL3 (Biosafety Level 3) lab which is necessary to inactivate a live virus in order to produce the Covid vaccines. The government must help those vaccine manufacturers who do not have this facility to get the lab up and running as fast as possible. It must provide them with funds and if import of equipment is required, it must allow and facilitate that. It must also assist them in getting the imported raw materials and provide them advance payments to fund their working capital requirements. Hopefully, once these manufacturers start production in full, there will be no vaccine shortage in India.