India Vaccine Export Ban Hurts Developing Nations, Says IMF

The central government did not order enough COVID-19 vaccines on time and later diverted stocks meant for exports for use within the country.

India Vaccine Export Ban Hurts Developing Nations, Says IMF

India was critical to global efforts to vaccinate the developing countries.

New Delhi:

Unveiling a proposal on how a $50 billion investment plan can vaccinate people around the world against COVID-19 by the middle of next year, the International Monetary Fund or IMF on Friday said India's decision to ban the export of vaccines was affecting a number of developing countries.

"Already, various manufacturers including the Serum Institute of India (licensed to manufacture Novavax and AstraZeneca) have experienced substantial delays," the IMF research piece, authored by IMF Chief Economist Gita Gopinath and colleague Ruchir Agarwal, said.

"India has delayed most of its vaccine exports to prioritize vaccinations at home. Such delays disproportionately impact developing countries - for instance, the Serum Institute is contracted to supply about 85 per cent of the supplies to the COVAX facility, and persistent shortage of raw materials and export restrictions can reduce access to vaccines for 4 billion people in 91 developing countries plus India relying on this facility," it said.

A global initiative to get vaccines to developing countries, COVAX aims to cover at least 20 per cent of the populations of the more-than 90 low and middle-income nations signed up to receive the shots as donations. It has so far distributed about 65 million doses of mainly the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine, many of them to Africa.

The IMF also said that some of the delays in worldwide vaccine rollouts can be attributed to ongoing export restrictions placed by the US as part of the Defense Production Act to secure its own vaccine supply chain.

Battered by a vicious second wave of COVID-19 in the last few months, India banned the export of vaccines, despite international commitments, as the government decided to drastically step up the pace of vaccination at home.

The government had not placed orders for enough shots earlier as most countries scrambled last year to secure vaccines for its citizens. This meant jabs for other nations were diverted inside India although even these were far fewer than what is required to vaccinate the country's target group.

Before it was hit by the world's highest numbers of daily infections, India had been vital to global vaccination efforts. Its Serum Institute of India, the world's biggest producer of the AstraZeneca vaccine, was the cornerstone of COVAX's supply chain.

But news agency Reuters reported this week that India's vaccine exports, halted in March, are unlikely to resume until at least October as it diverts shots for domestic use. SII subsequently said it would restart exports by year's end.

The IMF on Friday said about $50 billion may be all it takes to vaccinate all eligible people around the world by the middle of next year as it proposed an investment programme that could have a global economic benefit of around $9 trillion.

The plan that counts on grants, national government resources, and concessional financing suggests that it can vaccinate 40 per cent of all countries by 2021 and the remaining 60 per cent by the first half of 2022 and called it "possibly be the highest-return public investment ever".