Deloitte, a consulting firm, predicts that India will be second only to the United States in terms of COVID-19 vaccine production this year. It believes India could become the world’s second largest COVID vaccine maker as the country has the capacity to produce for its own population as well as for other developing countries.
In a report last month, JPMorgan analysts said India has been a manufacturing hub for vaccines even before the pandemic, and should therefore be a strategic partner in the global inoculation against the pandemic. “Even without successful vaccine development from their own pipelines, available capacity provides opportunity to partner as contract manufacturers with approved vaccine developers to meet supply needs particularly for India and other emerging markets,” the JPMorgan report said.
Moreover, P S Easwaran, a partner at Deloitte India, said more than 3.5 billion COVID-19 vaccines could be made in the country in 2021, compared to around four billion in the United States. As such, companies in India are scaling up production to meet the growing demand.
K Srinath Reddy, president of the Public Health Foundation of India, said India’s vaccines will likely be more suitable for developing countries. He highlighted that some of the leading vaccines right now, such as the ones from Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna, make use of messenger RNA technology (mRNA) which uses genetic material to trigger the body’s own infection-fighting process. “Those vaccines require stringent cold chain requirements that will be difficult, or even out of the realm of possibility for most health systems,” Reddy said. “Vaccines made in India are easier to transport and cheaper, putting the country in a better position that the US and Europe when it comes to meeting demand in the developing world.”
Nissy Solomon, a senior research associate at Centre for Public Policy Research (CPPR), highlighted that India’s manufacturing capabilities are sufficient to meet the domestic demand. “With a proven track record on the scale at which vaccines are produced, India should be able to ramp up production to meet international demand as well.”
Furthermore, Solomon pointed out that the supply of vaccines is not as much a problem as that of storage, distribution and vaccine uptake. “India lacks the capacity to store and distribute to the masses at a scale as big as this.” She said the country should strategically choose vaccines that do not have to be stored at extreme temperatures.