India, which provided COVID-19 vaccines and medical equipment to more than 150 countries last year, extends deep appreciation in that same spirit of friendship and solidarity to those providing priority requirements to help the country battle the second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, Foreign Secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla said on Friday.
Addressing the UN Security Council high-level meeting on Maintenance of international peace and security: upholding multilateralism and the United Nations-centred international system’, held under the Council Presidency of permanent and veto-wielding member China, Mr Shringla said the COVID-19 pandemic has sharpened our awareness of the depth of global interdependence, and on the fact that the world is only as resilient as the least resilient country.
The events of the past year have clearly demonstrated how imperative it is for all countries to coordinate responses to the various challenges that the pandemic has brought to the fore, he said.
Over the past year alone, we have provided COVID-19 vaccines, pharmaceuticals and medical equipment to more than 150 countries across the world. In that same spirit of friendship and solidarity, we extend deep appreciation to those that have come forward to provide us with some priority requirements to battle the second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic that we are currently facing, Mr Shringla said.
India provided COVID-19 vaccines to nations across the world – from India’s immediate neighbours to countries in Latin America and Africa – and is a significant source of supply to the COVAX facility.
According to the Ministry of External Affairs data as of May 7, a total of 66.37 million Made-in-India COVID-19 vaccine supplies have been sent through grants, commercial arrangements and COVAX initiative to 95 nations around the world.
India has also worked with South Africa and other partners in the World Trade Organisation to seek a relaxation in the norms of the TRIPS agreement to ensure quick and affordable access to vaccines and medicines for developing countries during the COVID-19 pandemic.
This waiver will be an important step for enabling the rapid scaling up of manufacture and timely availability of affordable COVID-19 vaccines and essential medical products on a global basis, Mr Shringla said.
In a highly-significant development this week, the Biden administration backed an initiative by India and South Africa at the WTO to temporarily waive patent rules on COVID-19 vaccines, seen as a breakthrough in the global fight against the deadly pandemic by potentially expanding the supply of the vaccines and more affordable doses for less wealthy nations.
Announcing the major policy decision after intense internal debate and strong pushback from American drugmakers, US Trade Representative Katherine Tai on Wednesday said this is a global health crisis and the extraordinary circumstances of the COVID-19 pandemic call for extraordinary measures.
“The (Biden) administration believes strongly in intellectual property protections, but in service of ending this pandemic, supports the waiver of those protections for COVID-19 vaccines, Ms Tai had said.
Mr Shringla emphasised that it is the lack of a coordinated global response that exposed the vulnerabilities and weaknesses of the multilateral system as it stands today, providing a timely reminder for the pressing need for comprehensive reform.
While the pandemic exposed the fault lines from unreliable global supply chains to inequitable vaccine distribution, it has also underlined the need for global solidarity and strengthened multilateralism, he said.
India told the high-level meeting that the re-imagined post-pandemic world will make profoundly different demands from the multilateral system, which must evolve accordingly so as to be fit for purpose and capable of inspiring confidence in its ability to effectively meet those demands.