Home / News / India /  India-US health cooperation may retain momentum despite verdict

NEW DELHI : The outcome of the US polls may impact a joint proposal made recently by India and South Africa to the World Trade Organization (WTO) to ease international and intellectual property agreements on covid-19 vaccines, treatments and tests, which was, however, rejected by the US and other major developed countries.

The proposal, which aims to make the resources available to all who need them at affordable rates, has also been supported by the World Health Organization (WHO). In a submission before the TRIPS (Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights) Council of WTO on 2 October, India and South Africa urged WTO members for waiver of certain rules of TRIPS agreement to ensure that intellectual property rights such as patents, industrial designs, copyright and protection of undisclosed information do not create barriers to timely access to affordable medical products, or to scaling-up of research, development, manufacturing and supply of medical products essential to combat the pandemic.

The proposal was taken up for discussion at the TRIPS Council meeting on 15-16 October where developed countries, including the US, the EU, Canada, Japan, the UK, Australia and Switzerland, rejected it while African group countries, least developed countries, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Pakistan, Nepal, and others supported it.

The US election outcome is not likely to impact the ongoing momentum on health cooperation between the two countries, given the enduring and institutionalized nature of ties between the US and India, healthcare experts in India said. The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) has been working in India on major healthcare verticals. India and US have a shared health focus, according to USAID. USAID’s health programmes in India work across sectors to prevent up to 2 million deaths per year, one-fifth of India’s mortality burden, it said. As the world’s second-most populous country, India faces several health challenges. These include declining but high rates of maternal and child mortality, widespread malnutrition among children and pregnant women, and the largest burden of tuberculosis (TB) globally.

India has the third-largest number of people with HIV, vulnerable populations that lack access to basic health care, and more than 39 million Indians fall into poverty each year due to medical costs. To address these challenges, USAID has been partnering the Indian government, the private sector, and civil society to strengthen the impact, reach, affordability, and quality of health services for poor and vulnerable households. “Over the years, health initiatives in India supported by the US government have been complementary to the government of India’s priorities of reproductive and maternal health, TB, and HIV/AIDS," said Himanshu Sikka, lead, nutrition, health and WASH, IPE Global, an international development consulting firm in healthcare.

“Both the countries will continue to extend cooperation on all health matters including the partnership on vaccine research and development for covid-19 that is underway," said Gurpreet Sandhu, president, Council for Healthcare and Pharma, a think tank working towards the development of sustainable healthcare systems.

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