Moody’s Analytics on Monday said India, along with China, would take lead in the COVID-19 vaccine distribution in the Asia-Pacific region. India launched its vaccination programme on January 16 after the drug regulator DCGI earlier this month approved Oxford COVID-19 vaccine Covishield, manufactured by the Serum Institute of India, and Bharat Biotech’s indigenously developed Covaxin, for restricted emergency use in the country. Moody’s Analytics said the Indian government plans to inoculate nearly 300 million high-priority people, including health workers, the elderly, and those with higher comorbidities by August. “This is an important development. As India is the second most-impacted country in the world, after the US, the need for local immunisation is paramount to contain the significant socioeconomic costs,” Moody’s Analytics added.
The country’s success in advancing on this front will eventually soften the severity of the pandemic within the region, it said. As the largest producer of vaccines in the world with 60 per cent of the global share, India is well-positioned to contribute to mass vaccine production and distribution needs of other countries in addition to meeting its domestic requirements, said Moody’s Analytics in its report titled ‘Asia’s vaccine update- A step-up in momentum’. “With exports of the COVID-19 vaccines expected to begin soon, India (along with China) looks set to take the lead in driving the region’s distribution efforts in the months ahead,” it added. Moody’s Analytics said another pivotal change was Indonesia’s formal approval of China’s Sinovac vaccine for emergency use, becoming the first country outside China to do so. “This is a significant development and could open the door for other Asian economies to follow suit,” it added.
Separately, the Philippines has also approved the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine for emergency use. The country has one of the highest number of daily COVID-19 infections in Southeast Asia and has been suffering from a protracted first wave of the virus since last spring. “The Philippines will receive the first batch of vaccines through the COVAX facility, while the government negotiates a bilateral deal with Pfizer. “COVAX plays a crucial role in providing vaccines for lower-income countries and will smoothen some of the uneven post-pandemic recovery in the region,” it added.