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India needs its own version of Operation Warp Speed

A report in The Economic Times says that Bharat Biotech is working on a plan to increase its monthly production capacity of the Covaxin vaccine from the current 5 million doses to 12 million doses. Serum Institute, which manufactures Covishield, is reported to be working on a similar plan.

 

The arrival of vaccines against Covid-19 in less than a year after the first case was officially reported is on account of an extraordinary collaboration between public authorities and private companies. One measure which encapsulates this collaboration is the US government’s Operation Warp Speed, launched in May 2020, to shorten the timelines for vaccine development by providing upfront capital to spread the financial risk. Both the EU and UK have done something similar.

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India too has seen public-private collaboration in the form of Covaxin’s development. However, given the seriousness of the Covid-19 situation, the Indian government needs to dip into the Union budget allocations for fighting Covid to ramp up vaccine production. This can come with capital subsidy to vaccine manufacturers that are tied to quantity and price agreements with the government. Time is of the essence. The only way to compress vaccine development timelines is for the Indian government to underwrite some of the risk. The payoff will be an earlier exit from the cycle of lockdowns.



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