India-US capabilities key to making affordable vaccines: Indian envoy to US
The current partnership between the two nations bodes well in the fight against Covid, he said
Vaccinating the world must be the priority strategy against the Civid-19, India's Ambassador to the US Taranjit Singh Sandhu said on Tuesday.
In this regard, the partnership between India and the US in the healthcare sector is critical to vaccinating the world against the coronavirus, said Sandhu, while speaking at a virtual roundtable on ‘Vaccine for All’. Eminent participants including Bill Gates discussed how safe, affordable and reliable vaccines can be delivered to all.
In addition to Gates, Co-Chair and Trustee of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, other eminent participants to the roundtable were Dr. V K Paul, member of Niti Aayog and Dr. Soumya Swaminathan, Chief Scientist at the World Health Organisation (WHO); Proffessor Peter Jay Hotez, from Baylor College of Medicine in Houston and Congressman Dwight Evans, Member Ways & Means Committee and Subcommittee on Health.
Sandhu added that the world's map of vaccinations presents a story of disparities with the under-developed countries, including those in Africa, lagging at 10% or below.
“Several lessons have been learned during this pandemic to inform future R&D (research and development) and vaccine development for all infectious diseases,” said Dr. Swaminathan.
In his welcome address, Sandhu said that in the process of vaccination for all, India-US healthcare partnership is important for three reasons.
First, there has been a robust and long-standing collaboration between India and the US in the health sector including in vaccines. The bilateral Vaccine Action Programme (VAP) resulted in development of ROTAVAC - vaccine against Rotavirus, developed by the Indian company, Bharat Biotech, which significantly lowered costs.
The established linkages between Indian and US institutions, and researchers portend well in the fight against COVID-19, he remarked.
Second, the convergences between India and the US are strong. “I only need to point you to the intensive engagements last year at bilateral, Quad and multilateral levels. Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to the US, Bilateral Summit with President Joe Biden and the Quad Summit were significant, substantive, and comprehensive. The Quad Vaccines Initiative is on track to roll out this year on its promise of 1 billion J & J vaccines manufactured by India’s Biological E,” Sandhu added.
And finally, India and the US have unique synergies that can be leveraged, he noted. The cutting-edge technology and research leadership of the US and the capabilities of India as the world’s largest vaccine manufacturer can be combined for producing affordable vaccines.
In this regard, Sandhu pointed to the collaboration between Baylor College of Medicine and India’s BioE that has resulted in producing patent-free and logistically easier Corbevax. He also noted the collaboration between Novavax and Serum Institute of India to produce Covovax for which India has already given emergency use approval.
In his remarks, Bill Gates highlighted the role played by India’s vaccine manufacturers resulting in almost every country in the world being able to offer vaccines against pneumonia, Rotavirus which has saved lives of millions of children around the globe over decades.
He further noted Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s remarks on deepening India’s commitment to a global hub by continuing to harness the country’s science and technology talent to advance scientific discovery and creation of new products.
“The Quad country partnership with Bio-E to produce over a billion vaccine doses is an example of how these partnerships can be scaled,” said Gates.
In the first session on “Affordable Vaccine for All”, the speakers present highlighted the need for COVAX like facilities and continuous research programs before the next pandemic strikes, to deal with it effectively.
In the subsequent session on “Augmenting Indo-US Vaccines for African Region”, the importance of the India-US-Japan-Australia vaccine partnership in equitable global access to Covid vaccines in other countries, including the African region was raised.