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Indian vaccine exports take ill as they are not immune to Chinese competition bug

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Indian vaccine exports have been falling steadily since 2015-16 even as the global market has been expanding under the threat of new pandemics.

New Delhi: India’s shaky position as the ‘pharmacy of the world’ has suffered a fresh blow with the export of vaccines showing a steady decline even as the global market expands under the threat of new pandemics.

According to data compiled by the Pharmaceuticals Export Promotion Council (Pharmexcil), an arm of the ministry of commerce and industry, export of vaccines slid by 10.25 per cent during the first 11 months of 2017-18.

The share of vaccines in India’s total pharmaceutical exports declined to 4.04 per cent in 2016-17 from 4.3 per cent in 2015-16.

In 2017-18, it further plunged to 3.78 per cent.

The vaccines that have registered a notable fall in exports include those for whooping cough, diphtheria, polio and tetanus. The numbers also fell for the mixed vaccines for DPT (diphtheria, pertussis or whooping cough, and tetanus) triple antigen.

Over the last three years, there has been a fall of 90 per cent in the export of vaccines for whooping cough, and 40 per cent in those for diphtheria. Exports for the mixed vaccines for DPT have shrunk by 21 per cent.

The export of vaccines for polio and tetanus, meanwhile, fell by 10 and 30 per cent respectively between 2015-16 and 2016-17.

Why are vaccine exports plunging?

In 2012, the World Health Organisation (WHO) cleared the supply of Indian vaccines to itself and other international bodies such as UNICEF and the World Bank. Soon after, India emerged as the global epicentre of vaccine manufacturing, with over 12 major facilities.

In 2014, the WHO gave a supply clearance to China, which has 34 major facilities for the manufacture of vaccines. Although Indian exports were initially unharmed on account of what experts said was the trust deficit with Chinese products, China has since earned the faith of global health watchdogs and invested heavily in research and development.

“China is ready to challenge us in the vaccines category. The impact is visible on India’s exports,” Uday Bhaskar, director general of Pharmexcil, told ThePrint. “India is supplying conventional vaccines. But we are lagging behind in the modern vaccines category,” he added.

While conventional vaccines refer to those aimed at polio and tetanus, among others, modern vaccines are targeted at more recent outbreaks such as Ebola and Zika.

Also eating into India’s market share is the South Korean company LG Lifesciences, which now leads the manufacture and supply of the pentavalent vaccine, once India’s strength, across the globe.

The pentavalent vaccine is a five-in-one prevention solution for diphtheria, whooping cough, tetanus, Hepatitis-B, and Haemophilus influenzae type B or Hib, described by the WHO as a “bacteria responsible for severe pneumonia, meningitis and other invasive diseases almost exclusively in children aged less than 5 years”.

“One of the many factors that play into this dynamic is the arrival of the new international manufacturers…this has been posing tough competition for vaccine exports from India,” said Mahesh Bhalgat, chief operating officer at Shantha Biotechnics, the vaccines division of drug-maker Sanofi Pasteur.

“While leading to a decline in volume, increased competition has also led to prices coming down, which has impacted export revenues,” Bhalgat added.

WHO experts declined to comment when reached by ThePrint.

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1 COMMENT

  1. Unless our three power centers (polity,admn,& judiciary) reduce taking bribe from 99% to tolarable levels (God almighty aslo cannot eradicate corruption from human beings) we will loose in all . Indian development is only due to the people and not because of the so called Leaders.

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