India has exported millions of vaccines against COVID-19, although it has witnessed a record number of cases and deaths in the last few weeks.
On Saturday, India announced it would vaccinate anyone over the age of 18, covering about 600 million people, as it struggles to deal with the catastrophic second wave of coronavirus, which has affected the world’s second most populous country.
But there are few vaccines available to inoculate humans, with experts criticizing the government for its unwillingness to fight the virus, which killed nearly 40,000 people in April alone. Currently, more than 20 million Indians are infected as daily levels of infection continue to break records.
Public anger is growing against the government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi for improperly tackling India̵
Experts say the health infrastructure is overcrowded as the number of cases increases amid the slow spread of the inoculation campaign. Modi’s government has also been criticized for allowing Hindu religious festivals and election campaigns to continue, events that have proven to be “super distributors”.
Vaccination is one of the biggest weapons against the growing virus, but according to Our World in Data, as of May 2, only 2 percent of India’s 1.4 billion people have been fully vaccinated with the first and second doses. Nearly 9.2% of the population received at least one dose.
Bloomberg reports that the government has not ordered vaccines larger than 110 million doses from the Serum Institute of India (SII) – the world’s largest vaccine manufacturer based in Pune – since sales began in December , barely enough for only 4 percent of its population.
SII, which produces the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine, has been asked by the Indian government to suspend all exports, affecting global vaccine supplies.
India has also approved the Covaxin anti-coronavirus vaccine, manufactured by the Indian company Bharat Biotech.
Against the backdrop of fabricated cases, the government last month accelerated emergency approvals for COVID-19 vaccines from Pfizer-BioNTech, Johnson & Johnson, Novavax, Moderna and Russia’s Sputnik V.
More than 13 million people between the ages of 18 and 44 have registered for vaccines, but countries, including Madhya Pradesh and the severely affected Maharashtra, have managed to vaccinate a very small population amid a shortage of stings.
Between January and April, India exported 11 million doses as donations – among 66 million doses of vaccines it has distributed worldwide – as part of its vaccine diplomacy program.
Vaccination efforts in India have also been politicized after the federal government asked state governments to procure vaccines.
Public health experts and opposition leaders have called on the federal government to implement the immunization program instead of delegating it to state governments.