Published: 27th April 2021
What the FAQ: What materials for a COVID vaccine did the US ban from being exported to India?
On Sunday, the US said that it will make these materials available in India immediately. What are these materials and why are they important to make vaccines?
With the second wave of COVID-19 turning deadly, India has also grappling with an acute shortage of vaccines to manage the spread of the virus. One major reason pointed out for this was a ban that the US had imposed on the raw materials needed to produce Covovax. Covovax is a vaccine that the Serum Institute of India is hoping to begin manufacturing in April. However, on Sunday, the US said that it will make these materials available in India immediately. What are these materials and why are they important to make vaccines? We explain it here.
Why was there a ban in the first place?
The US administration had said that the country's priority was to meet the vaccine requirements of the American people and was saving the materials for domestic use. Responding to the press, a US Department of State official had said, "We have a special responsibility to the American people. Number two, the American people, this country has been hit harder than any other country around the world – more than 550,000 deaths, tens of millions of infections in this country alone."
When was the ban finally lifted?
The decision was announced on Sunday and had happened after a series of conversations between India’s National Security Adviser Ajit Doval and US counterpart Jake Sullivan about the rising number of COVID cases in the country.
US President Joe Biden had announced the lifting of the ban through his Twitter account on Sunday. "Just as India sent assistance to the United States as our hospitals were strained early in the pandemic, we are determined to help India in its time of need," he tweeted.
What are these materials?
The materials include single-use plastic bioreactor bags and standardised filters. Vaccine production requires other materials too from other countries, but the US is the largest manufacturer of these materials.
When will these materials be available?
Even though the ban is lifted, it will take time for these materials to become available in India. There is no clarity on when they will be made available yet.