English News

  • youtube
  • facebook
  • twitter

COVID-19 Powers India’s Rise As a Vaccine Superpower

India Emerges As Vaccine Superpower, China Failing Behind In Race

COVID-19 vaccines are fast becoming a crucial tool of diplomatic currency around the world, as nations jockey for soft-power gains. While China is falling behind in the race for influence with limited supply, India's huge capacity to manufacture over 60 per cent of global vaccines are leveraging to strengthen ties and expand its influence across the world.

As the race to administer COVID-19 jabs has ramped up, so have efforts to use the vaccines as instruments of influence. India entered the fray in February by giving away millions of doses to its neighbours in South Asia and beyond, where it has been competing for diplomatic sway with China. Beijing has announced a flurry of free doses over recent weeks to 13 countries, and say it plans to provide vaccines to 38 more. India has already agreed to supply over one billion vaccines to developing countries. As of the last count, 92 nations are to receive Indian made vaccines.

India is delivering vaccine shipments to both developing and developed economies and it has even helped ties with some industrialized nations struggling to get deliveries of western doses. Canada, which has angered New Delhi over support for protesting Indian farmers, asked the Serum Institute to expedite shipments. Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro has thanked Prime Minister Narendra Modi after India shipped two million doses of India made coronavirus vaccines landed in Brazil last month. Even China's staunch ally Mongolia received 150,000 free doses delivered by India. 

So far, New Delhi has managed to ship nearly 6.8 million free vaccines around the world and has exported a total of more than 33 million shots. China has pledged around 3.9 million, according to a Bloomberg report, some of which have yet to arrive. China promised to send around 300,000 doses to Myanmar but has yet to deliver anything, while India quickly delivered 1.7 million shots.

Likewise, Beijing has promised 10 million vaccines to the United Nations-backed COVAX initiative, but the first supplies of COVAX vaccines went from the Serum Institute of India to Ghana. India dispatched the first batch of six lakh COVID-19 vaccine doses to Ghana under the COVAX facility on 24 February, an international cooperative programme formed to make sure low- and middle-income countries have fair access to COVID-19 vaccines.

Besides neighbouring countries like Sri Lanka, Nepal, Bangladesh and Maldives where China competed with India in expanding its influence, New Delhi has delivered vaccines to numerous countries, a substantial amount of doses freely well ahead of Beijing's offers to supply the jabs.

Even Chinese sympathiser, WHO Chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus has lauded Prime Minister Narendra Modi's commitment to supporting vaccine equity and sharing COVID-19 vaccines with over 60 countries across the world.

India has despatched COVID vaccines selflessly to neighbouring countries. The world also appreciated Indian generosity. While China, on the other hand, had asked nations to contribute towards the development cost of the vaccine in case they desired free vaccines manufactured by its Sinovac Biotech. Nations like Bangladesh refused to do so, preferring the Indian product. A comparison of costs would indicate that the Indian manufactured vaccine is cheaper than the Chinese product. Hence, nations across the globe are placing demands for Indian manufactured and developed vaccines instead of Chinese products. This is hurting the Chinese image. The only nation in the subcontinent which received Chinese vaccines as a gift is Pakistan.

The vaccines in contention between India and China are the Oxford-AstraZeneca Covishield vaccine being manufactured by the Serum Institute in Pune, Coronavac from China and Covaxin, which is being produced by Bharat Biotech.

While both, Covishield and Covaxin have high reliability, while Coronavac has been judged to have just 50.4 per cent efficacy. Demand for Indian shots is expected to jump once Covaxin wins regulatory approvals, and Hyderabad-based Dr Reddy's Laboratories begins shipping the Russian vaccine Sputnik V.

In a market of extreme scarcity, with vaccination yet to begin in 130 countries, India is emerging as a superpower in the vaccination race, leveraging geopolitical competition to take on China in the battle to gain diplomatic influence across the globe. India's vaccine diplomacy has helped soothe some tricky relationships with neighbours in South Asia, where it has been fighting a pitched diplomatic battle with China.