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India looking forward to WHO approval for home-grown covid vaccine Covaxin

Foreign secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla underlined India’s intention to participate in international regeneration efforts as the pandemic wanes, through building newer and more resilient supply chains. (AFP)Premium
Foreign secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla underlined India’s intention to participate in international regeneration efforts as the pandemic wanes, through building newer and more resilient supply chains. (AFP)

  • Foreign secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla said the external affairs ministry also been part of the discussions with major vaccine manufacturers such as Pfizer, Johnson & Johnson, and Moderna about sourcing and possible local manufacturing of their vaccines in India

NEW DELHI : India is looking forward to the World Health Organization (WHO) approving and recognizing India’s indigenously developed anti-covid vaccine, Indian foreign secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla said on Thursday.

In his address to the WHO's “South-East Asia Regional Health Partners’ Forum on COVID-19", Shringla also underlined India’s intention to participate in international regeneration efforts as the pandemic wanes, through building newer and more resilient supply chains.

The meet was attended by Ajay Seth, secretary, department of economic affairs; Rajesh Bhushan, health secretary; and Randeep Guleria, director, All India Institute of Medical Sciences, besides participants from Sri Lanka, Nepal and Bhutan.

Shringla said covid-19 had “altered geopolitical and geoeconomic conduct". “Trust and transparency have been affected; there is heightened risk aversion; confidence in globalization has been affected," he said. What is commonly referred to as the “global system" was found wanting in its efforts to address the challenges posed by the pandemic, he said.

“Going forward, we will participate in the process of creating global scale capacities that are needed to deal with pandemic scale challenges," Shringla said and added that conversations to create these alternatives were already under way with groups such as the Group of 7 industralized nations, the G20, the Quad, the BRICS countries, the UN and WHO.

At the World Trade Organization, India is working with several other countries “on a targeted and temporary waiver under TRIPS (Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights) to ensure timely and secure access to vaccines for all", he said.

“We are also looking forward to WHO’s approval for India’s indigenous vaccine manufactured by Bharat Biotech," he said. This is expected to add the India-made Covaxin to the list of anti covid-19 vaccines accepted for use by countries.

Last month Bharat Biotech International Ltd (BBIL), which manufactures the homegrown covid-19 vaccine, Covaxin, said it had submitted 90% of the documentation needed for WHO’s Emergency Use Listing. The rest of the documents are to be submitted this month. A WHO recognition for Covaxin would also give Indian vaccine development a boost, with at least four more India-developed vaccine candidates in various stages of trial. The Indian foreign ministry has been coordinating with BBIL to secure WHO recognition for Covaxin.

Shringla also gave an insight into the work put in by the foreign ministry during the covid-19 pandemic. The ministry's work, he said, included organizing flights to bring in Indians stranded abroad through the “Vande Bharat" Mission, seen as the largest logistical exercise of its kind; sourcing medical equipment and medicines for India from abroad; and delivering humanitarian support and providing disaster relief for countries in India’s immediate neighbourhood. Besides, India has supplied healthcare products to 150 countries, he said.

Through the Vande Bharat Mission, India facilitated the movement of 7 million people and deployed rapid response teams to Kuwait, the Maldives, Mauritius, Comoros, Sudan, South Sudan, Djibouti, Eritrea, Vietnam and Cambodia. The foreign ministry has also “acted as the global arm of the government of India’s empowered group, to procure essential raw materials and medical supplies for covid-19, " he said, referring to Indian missions abroad being tasked with securing medical supplies to battle the first and second waves of covid-19. Last year, a total of 91 cargo flights were organized between April and August 2020 to bring in medical supplies, he said.

During the second wave, too, the ministry was part of the effort to “source medical products, machinery, and components that were vital for enhancing our domestic manufacturing capabilities," he said. “We have been a vital part of a global effort to source liquid medical oxygen, cryogenic tankers, zeolites and essential medicines such as remdesivir, tocilizumab and amphotericin B," he said, referring to drugs seen as critical to fight covid-19 and mucormycosis.

The foreign ministry has also been part of “the discussions with major vaccine manufacturers such as Pfizer, Johnson & Johnson, and Moderna about sourcing and possible local manufacturing of their vaccines in India. We have also helped to expedite the introduction of Sputnik-V vaccines," he said.

“Vaccines have complex supply chains. We have worked to ease regulatory disruptions to these supply chains with key partners through diplomatic interventions," he said of the foreign ministry’s interventions with the US to urge Washington to ease embargoes on the supply of critical products needed for vaccine manufacture in India. India sources more than 200 components from the US, more than 100 from Germany and several others from countries such as France, Japan, Switzerland and Singapore.

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