India has the world’s biggest vaccine producing capacity but is suffering a devastating second wave of coronavirus infections – just as supplies of Covid-19 vaccines for its huge population are running low.
The government has purchased at least 205.5 million doses of Covid-19 vaccines, according to data from the Duke Global Health Innovation Center, placing India in the top 10 vaccine buyers in the world. But those shots would only cover 8% of its 1.4 billion population.
As of Tuesday, India had administered 147.7 million doses of Covid-19 vaccines, according to the health ministry. Some 2.4 million of those were given on that day alone, the ministry said.
While that sounds like a lot of shots, India ranks low in per capita vaccination, with only 11 doses administered per 100 people compared to 69 in the United States and Britain, according to Our World in Data.
The country is administering two vaccines domestically: the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine, known as Covishield in India, and its homegrown Covaxin, developed jointly by Bharat Biotech and the government-run Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR). In mid-April, India also approved Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine, after ordering 100 million doses of it last September.
Before the pandemic, India typically produced more than 60% of all vaccines sold globally. It is home to the Serum Institute of India (SII), the world’s largest vaccine maker, and its vast manufacturing capability is why the country signed on as a major player in COVAX, the global vaccine-sharing initiative that provides discounted or free doses for lower-income countries. Under the initial agreement announced last year, SII would manufacture up to 200 million doses for up to 92 countries.
But the ferocity of India’s second wave of infections has disrupted those plans. In the face of crisis, the government and SII have shifted focus from supplying vaccines to COVAX to prioritizing their own citizens at home.
Starting May 1, all residents over the age of 18 will be eligible for vaccination. Private vaccination providers will also be able to sell and administer vaccines. But state ministers have warned there simply aren’t enough vaccines even if more people become eligible.
As of April 28, India had exported a total of 66 million vaccine doses to countries across the world, according to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
CNN’s Jessie Yeung, Esha Mitra and Swati Gupta contributed to this report.