India or Israel? Meet the other ‘vaccination nation’

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called Israel a “vaccination nation” because of the country’s success in inoculating more than 5 million people in just a few months. However, less than 3,000 miles away, another country vaccinated the same number in just three days – and manufactured millions of COVID-19 vaccines in just a few months.

Meet India.

Dubbed the “pharmacy of the world”, even before the pandemic, the country produced 60% of vaccines globally. It is now poised to become the world’s second largest manufacturer of COVID vaccines just below the United States, with the capacity to produce sufficient doses to protect its own population and other developing countries.

“Regardless of who comes with a vaccine or where it is invented, it will remain meaningless if it is not manufactured on a large scale,” India’s ambassador to Israel, Shri Sanjeev Kumar Singla, told The Jerusalem Post. “This is where the strengths of India’s industry become a crucial global asset.

He said that “India has great strength in biotechnology and the pharmaceutical sector, both in research and development and in manufacturing. Indian companies are already producing vaccines for the world even before COVID-19. Therefore, the transition for them was not a major challenge. “

The largest vaccine factory in the world is in India, a private company in Pune called the Serum Institute of India.

There are several global companies already linked to Indian pharmaceutical companies for the production of COVID-19 vaccines. Among them are Britain’s AstraZeneca, Russia’s Sputnik V and two American companies: Johnson & Johnson and Novavax. Johnson & Johnson is also conducting part of its Phase III clinical trial in the country.

About one billion doses of the American vaccine are expected to be produced in India for distribution next year in countries in the Indo-Pacific region, Singla told the Post.

THE COUNTRY has not only sold, but has donated millions of COVID-19 vaccines to several countries.

“We have a fundamental and civilizational belief that we should share with everyone else, especially with developing countries,” said Singla of exporting more than 64 million doses of vaccines to more than 82 countries – at the time, exceeding the number vaccines. administered internally.

“This belief is encapsulated in the Sanskrit term ‘Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam’, which means that the world is a family,” he explained. “COVID-19 just reiterated this, as it showed that no country is an island and we are not safe until everyone else is safe.”

India sold about 25,000 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine to the Palestinian Authority earlier this year and said it would provide more if requested.

About 17% to 18% of the other vaccines exported went to countries close to Israel, such as Algeria, Bahrain, Egypt, Iran, Kuwait, Morocco, Oman, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. Another 40% was distributed to African countries. And approximately 28% went to the World Health Organization’s COVAX program, which aims to provide doses of the COVID vaccine to at least 20% of populations in countries that would otherwise not be able to afford it.

India has also provided vaccines for UN peacekeepers.

Although Singla said that “it is too early” to look at vaccination in geopolitical terms, he admitted that “people remember who came to their aid in times of desperate need. Goodwill remains. “

But he said that “such benefits would be the corollary, but not the main motivator” for the country’s manufacturing and distribution efforts. In fact, India recently called on the World Trade Organization to use the provision in the Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) to grant a temporary waiver of intellectual property rights for COVID-19 vaccines so that they produced in greater volume. The request was not accepted.

WHILE, as mentioned, India has made efforts to vaccinate its own huge population of 1.3 billion people. To date, according to India’s Ministry of Health, India has distributed more than 90 million doses to its people at an average of 2.2 million people a day.

Its daily vaccination rate is the second in the world, behind only the United States. However, with 1.3 billion people in the country, the campaign should take months, if not more than a year, to complete.

Two vaccines are being used in India: AstraZeneca and its own locally developed vaccine, known as Covaxin, which was created by Bharat Biotech in association with the Indian Medical Research Council and the National Institute of Virology in India.

Clinical trials of the vaccine have shown that it is 81% effective. So far, the vaccine has been approved for emergency use in Iran, Mauritius, Myanmar, Paraguay and Zimbabwe.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi was injected with the Indian vaccine.

The country also has another local vaccine candidate COVID-19, known as ZyCoV-D, which is being developed by the Indian company Zydus Cadilla and is currently in the middle of its Phase III trial.But not everything went well for India last year. About 166,000 people died from the virus. The country, like Israel, offers free universal access to health services. However, health care in India has been chronically underfunded and the public system tends to be used only by the lower class. People with a higher income opt for private assistance.

India is still suffering from the challenges of the pandemic. It is currently experiencing another wave of coronavirus, with about 100,000 new cases registered each day. The cases are centered in about six states, the ambassador said, and are being attributed in part to public behavior. It is currently the “festival season” in India and there is also an election campaign in progress.

Parts of the country have already been blocked and there is talk of a potential national blockade.

Although India has not completely sealed its borders, regardless of vaccination status, anyone arriving in the country must have had a PCR test before boarding the plane and on arrival. There is also a mandatory quarantine requirement if a test is positive.

WHY, said the ambassador, India understands that “COVID is unlikely to disappear next year and we may have other pandemics”, it is also participating in other efforts to improve the management of COVID-19.

Some of these initiatives are with Israel.

India and Israel are cooperating in the development of non-invasive diagnostic kits based on Terahertz audio, breath and odor analyzer for the detection of COVID-19. During the summer, a delegation from the Israeli medical and defense team traveled to the country to launch the program, testing the new screening kits on about 25,000 Indian citizens.

Singla said Israel’s Defense Research and Development Directorate is calibrating the results. Once the work is done – and Singla did not have a timetable – he said that “it has the potential to transform the way we deal with the pandemic”.

Israel and India are also exploring collaboration in the use of artificial intelligence to map and predict the spatial spread of the virus.

“There is a desire to get back to our normal lives and, for that, we need a vaccine very quickly,” said Singla.

“To the extent that we can help to control [the virus], we would be very happy, ”he continued, adding that“ nobody takes care of developing countries in this world, so we have to take care of each other ”.