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NEW DELHI : India and the UK on Tuesday pledged to expand on their cooperation in health to help guarantee an equitable global supply of vaccine by April 2022.

This was one of the highlights of the India-UK Summit that was addressed by Indian prime minister Narendra Modi and his UK counterpart Boris Johnson virtually due to the spike in the number of covid-19 cases in India.

According to a joint statement put out by the two countries at the end of the summit, “both leaders acknowledged the difficult circumstances caused by the pandemic globally" and “emphasised that global cooperation and solidarity are key to fighting the pandemic and achieving sustainable and inclusive recovery."

Modi thanked Johnson for the UK’s prompt assistance to India as the country battled a devastating second wave of covid-19. UK has sent oxygen related equipment including concentrators and ventilators. Hospitals in India especially New Delhi have been reporting shortages of oxygen besides essential drugs and intensive care beds.

India and the UK have already established cooperation in fighting the pandemic – a vaccine developed by Oxford University and AstraZeneca is being manufactured in India under the brand name “Covishield" that is one of the two vaccines that the government is using to inoculate the population.

During the summit, the two leaders “agreed to expand and enhance the existing UK-India vaccines partnership, highlighting the successful collaboration between Oxford University, Astra Zeneca and the Serum Institute of India on an effective Covid19 vaccine that is 'developed in UK', 'Made in India' and 'distributed globally'."

“They emphasized that the international community should learn lessons and agreed to work together to reform and strengthen WHO (World Health Organisation) and the global health security architecture to strengthen pandemic resilience," the joint statement said.

An India-UK Vision 2030 document that maps out ties for the next decade said that the two countries were looking at deepening cooperation in vaccines, therapeutics and diagnostics and expanding “the UK-India Vaccines Hub to develop distribution policy, clinical trials, regulation, research and innovation related to Covid-19, helping guarantee equitable global supply by April 2022."

The two sides also agreed to “build on the excellent cooperation on the AstraZeneca/Oxford University Vaccine with India’s Serum Institute and explore manufacturing deals beyond Covid19 to tackle other infectious diseases and bring co-developed technologies to market," the Vision document stated.

“As a ‘Global Force for Good’ in health, the UK and India will use our combined research and innovation strength to address the biggest global health challenges, save lives and improve health and well-being," it said setting forth the path of future health collaboration.

“We will expand the breadth and depth of the India-UK Health Partnership to enhance global health security and pandemic resilience, show leadership on Anti-Microbial Resistance (AMR), promote healthy societies and strengthen both our health systems through increased collaboration on clinical education, health worker mobility and digital health," it said.

To reach the goals set in the Vision document, the two countries would hold “regular dialogue at ministerial level on strategic priorities for collaboration in the health sector."

The two countries would “work together to boost the resilience of global medical supply chains to ensure critical supplies of medicines, vaccines, logistics, diagnostics and other medical products reach those who need them," it said.

India and Britain would “jointly commit to the multilateral effort, including through the COVAX facility, to support equitable vaccine access for developing countries," it said.

The two countries expressed their intent to develop “an India-UK Digital Health Partnership to facilitate greater collaboration on digital health initiatives including on sharing of best practice."

India and the UK would “strengthen mechanisms to facilitate increased transfer/exchange of doctors and nurses on a permanent or short-term basis,"the document said.

They would also “increase opportunities for generic medicine supply from India to the UK by seeking access for Indian pharma products to the NHS (National Health Scheme) and recognition of Indian generic and Ayurvedic medicines that meet UK regulatory standards," the Vision document added.

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