Business & Finance
India's PM calls for COVID-19 vaccine data sharing
18 February 2021 -

The Prime Minister of India, Narendra Modi, on 18 February 2021 urged neighbouring countries to consider sharing data on the effectiveness of COVID-19 vaccines and explore special visas for medics to move around the region during health emergencies, Reuters news agency reported on Thursday.

In a virtual address at a regional health officials meeting, Modi was quoted as saying: "Can we create a regional platform for collating, compiling and studying data about the effectiveness of COVID-19 vaccines among our populations? Can we consider creating a special visa scheme for our doctors and nurses, so that they can travel quickly within our region during health emergencies, on the request of the receiving country?"

The Serum Institute of India (SII), considered the world's biggest vaccine maker, is producing the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine for low and middle-income countries and will soon start bulk-manufacturing the Novavax shot.

Several other vaccines are in the pipeline in India, which has supplied mainly SII-made shots to 25 countries with plans to add 49 more. It has also promised to gift 200,000 doses to UN peacekeepers around the world.

Reportedly, being a dominant power in and around South Asia, and with the capacity to be the world's top maker of COVID-19 shots, India has gifted or sold over 17 million COVID-19 vaccine doses to countries, including Bangladesh, Nepal, Sri Lanka and the Maldives.

Indian companies have promised to produce billions of COVID-19 shots this year alone. However, some Indians have criticised its focus on exports when they say more needs to be done to inoculate at home, Reuters added.

So far, India has reported about 11 million COVID-19 infections and more than 156,000 deaths. Currently, it has administered nearly 9.5 million COVID-19 vaccine doses since mid-January 2021.