India may need to spend $1.8 billion on COVID-19 vaccines in first phase

India may need to spend $1.8 billion on COVID-19 vaccines in first phase

India will have to spend $1.4 billion to $1.8 billion in the first phase of a coronavirus vaccination program, even after getting support under the COVAX global vaccine-sharing scheme, according to estimates by the GAVI vaccines alliance.

India, which has the world’s second-highest caseload of coronavirus behind the United States, plans to inoculate 300 million people over the next six to eight months, likely with vaccines from AstraZeneca, Russia’s Sputnik, Zydus Cadila, and India’s own Bharat Biotech.

Documents reviewed by Reuters underline the scale of the funding challenge India faces to immunize its vast population, with 600 million shots required in the first wave alone for critical workers and people most at risk from COVID-19.

If India got 190-250 million shots of the vaccine under the COVAX facility - a best-case scenario - then the government would need to line up about $1.4 billion to make up for the shortfall, according to an unpublished report prepared for GAVI’s three-day board meeting that began on Tuesday.

On the other hand, if India received a lower allocation of 95-125 million doses, then the cost to the government of procuring additional shots would go up to $1.8 billion.

By comparison, India’s 2020/21 federal budget allocated just under $10 billion to healthcare.

India’s health and finance ministries did not immediately respond to Reuter's e-mail seeking comments.