Covid-19 can change the course of everything on its track. For instance, the pandemic has suddenly turned India into a Covid vaccine importer from a mass exporter.
For the second day in a row, India has reported over two lakh Covid cases -- the second country in the world to report such a high single-day figure. On January 8, the US-registered over three lakh cases.
India, in fact, crossed the two lakh mark for the first time on Thursday. And on Friday, the country registered as many as 2,17,353 new cases and 1,185 deaths in 24 hours, taking the national case count and fatalities to 15,69,743 and 1,74,308, respectively.
But suddenly facing an acute shortage of jabs, India -- which has gifted and sold millions of Covid shots to neighbouring countries, including Bangladesh, and Africa through the World Health Organisation's COVAX initiative to date, is now turning to foreign vaccine producers.
"India began vaccinating its people three months back, but the country is now facing a shortage of Covid jabs. So, the Indian government has decided to start importing vaccines from abroad to continue its mass inoculation drive," a senior government official told UNB.
"The first foreign consignment of Russia's Sputnik V vaccine will arrive in India this month-end. A domestic pharma giant, Dr Reddy's will supply the imported Sputnik vaccine doses in the domestic market," he added.
Also read: Covid-19 vaccine not a 'silver bullet': WHO
In fact, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi rolled out the world's largest Covid inoculation programme on January 16. Two 'Made in India' jabs, one developed by the Serum Institute in collaboration with AstraZeneca, and the other by Bharat Biotech, are being given.
India has so far given 11,72,23,509 vaccine doses to its citizens, according to the country's Health Ministry.
However, the vaccine shortage is such that the Indian Health Ministry said Thursday that the country's Drug Controller would process Covid jab import licence in three working days flat, post emergency-use approval.
“Applications for restricted use in emergency situations for such vaccines may be accompanied by bridging trial protocol, application for import registration certificate and application for import license," the Ministry said in a statement.
"Central Drugs Standards Control Organisation (CDSCO) will process applications for registration certificate and import license, within three working days from the date of approval of restricted use in emergency situations,” it added.
India's vaccine shortage may also hit inoculation programmes in poorer economies as WHO is, to a large extent, dependent on supplies from this country. India has exported nearly 65 million doses to foreign countries to date, as per the Indian Foreign Ministry data.
"India will now focus primarily on domestic supplies because the government believes that the countrymen can't suffer at the cost of exports. But no specific call has been taken on halting exports yet," said the official.