India has cleared the use of two Covid-19 vaccines, highlighting its enormous vaccine manufacturing capacity. Large parts of the rich world may have something valuable to learn.
The Serum Institute of India is the world’s largest vaccine manufacturer by volume, founded over 50 years ago by the now multi-billionaire Cyrus Poonawalla. It is likely to supply not only nearly all of the vaccines administered in India, but also many more around the world, once exports are cleared later in the year.
Fitch Solutions research describes three groups of Asian economies this year: those that can likely immunize most people from priority groups such as healthcare workers and the elderly by June, those that can do so from here September and those that will take longer. . India is by far the lowest income country in the first group of economies, which includes Hong Kong, China, Singapore and Malaysia. Richer South Korea and Thailand will take longer.
The work of the Serum Institute requires a large and reliable domestic supply of the vials in which the vaccines are sealed and transported, provided by companies such as Schott Kaisha and Piramal Glass. The existence of the world’s largest vaccine manufacturer helps lay the groundwork for a nationwide network of suppliers.
Global supply chains and international trade have actually held up remarkably well under extreme circumstances over the past year. There is no need to surrender huge amounts of manufacturing capacity, and any attempt at self-sufficiency even halfway will make all parties involved – importers and exporters – less prosperous.