COVID-19: vaccine exports, India and US trade restrictions

By Valentina Horlander*

Washington. The corona virus epidemic has been a challenge for many nations to develop and administer a vaccine for their population.

India’s biotech institute, the Serum Institute of India [SSI], has been front and center for experience in creating vaccines.

The corona virus epidemic has been a challenge for many nations

The institute has recently developed two vaccines, Covishield and Covaxin and are exporting it to at least 50 different countries worldwide.

In recent weeks, the infection rate for India has continued to ramp up to the point where it is difficult for them to create enough vaccines to both export and deliver domestic doses without some sort of outside help.

India is looking to the United States for aid in importing raw materials to create enough vaccines in high demand, but the United States has trade sanctions with India that have been set in place for the last few years.

This does not only create a threat in administering the vaccine on a global scale but also hinders the development and export of other vaccines created by the United States.

India is a growing country with an approximate population of 1,339,330,514 people and a GDP of $6,700 per capita (CIA). It is a federal parliamentary republic, meaning the government is composed of an electoral college, parliament and state legislatures that agree on a single vote (CIA).

Historically, India has been a big producer of vaccines, which is why the SSI, as mentioned above, is on the front lines of production.

Since the beginning of the pandemic, India has had about 11.4% of their reported population infected from the COVID-19 virus, with only 8% of their population having received at least one of the doses of the vaccine (CSSEGIS).

Although this is a low number compared to the United States’ 50% of the population having received at least one of the doses, India is exporting hundreds of thousands of vaccines to countries such as Canada, Brazil and the United Kingdom.

In the last few weeks, however, as of April 19th, there have been 259,167 new cases of severe acute respiratory system [SARS] in India (CSSEGIS).

India has never seen an infection rate as high as this since the COVID-19 virus pandemic began. Due to this new and unprecedented infection rate, India has since began distributing more vaccines domestically.

To keep up with both the global and domestic demand, India needs the United States’s to contribute towards the import of raw materials.

Prime Minister of India, Nehendra Modi

As mentioned in the first paragraph, the trade of raw materials will not occur due to sanctions put on India from the United States.

Sanctions are laws placed to restrict trade with foreign countries.

The trade sanctions had been put in place for multiple reasons, including India’s lax intellectual property laws and their human rights violations.

These trade sanctions can diminish the amount of materials India has to create more vaccines and therefore lead to less vaccinations both domestically in India and globally.

The effects of the trade sanctions not only affect India’s production level of the vaccine, but also affect the manufacturing and distribution of American-made vaccines like the Moderna vaccine.

Having a halt on raw material exports during a pandemic substantially impacts the future of administering doses as well as the international relations between India and the United States.

Not only will the price of the Indian-made vaccine increase when there is not enough supply, but there will be a global shortage for the vaccine, per the World Health Organization (WHO).

The offices of the World Health Organization (WHO)

Trade relations may dwindle in both countries as well, the CEO of the Serum Institute of India has already called on President Joe Biden in hopes that his administration can negotiate new regulations that loosen up trade restrictions.

It is the world’s best interest that both countries may come together to help curb the pandemic in totality by supplying vaccines as needed.

*South Asia Analyst