When will Indian export overtake its import?

Corona: Why India can supply few vaccines

In addition to the SII, Bharat Biotech, a Hyderabad-based company, also received emergency approval for its own vaccine, Covaxin. With the compound it developed in partnership with the Indian Council of Medical Research, the company can manufacture 12.5 million doses per month. So far, Covaxin has only made up a small part of the vaccine doses previously administered in the country.

Some of the current problems could be solved by the approval of further, internationally developed vaccines that can be produced in India, says Shahid Jameel, virologist at Ashoka University in Sonipat. For example, the vaccine from the US company Johnson & Johnson, which only needs to be administered once. On April 13, India also approved the Russian vaccine Sputnik V. According to the government, the vaccine will be imported until domestic production begins.

New mutants are spreading

In March 2021, the Indian Ministry of Health announced that gene sequencing by a consortium of ten national research laboratories had revealed that several variants of the coronavirus were circulating in the country. These include variant B.1.1.7, which was first discovered in Great Britain and which spreads faster than the wild-type virus.

B.1.1.7 has already been detected on a large scale in the state of Punjab. It is "likely that this mutant will also spread to neighboring countries and dominate the overall infection rate," says Guleria.

Indian scientists are particularly interested in reports on a newly discovered variant. It contains two mutations that do not match the mutants cataloged so far. This "double mutant" was found in 15 to 20 percent of the samples from Maharashtra, says Jameel. It is the hardest hit state in India.

Little is known about this variant. According to Jameel, however, she is cause for concern: "The two mutations probably improve the ability of the virus to bind to cellular receptors and evade antibodies." India needs to carry out surveillance studies to find out whether people who have been vaccinated are due to mutated viruses or declining immunity infect again.