No room for vaccine nationalism, developed countries need to share technology: FM

·4-min read

New Delhi, May 3 (PTI) Cautioning the global community against vaccine nationalism at this hour of the COVID pandemic, India on Monday asked the developed nations to share technology and allow free movement of critical components and raw material needed for production of vaccines.

Speaking at the annual meet of the Asian Development Bank (ADB), Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman also underlined the need for a re-look at the Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) agreement in the context of the coronavirus pandemic.

'Countries will have to be open about sharing vaccine-based technologies. The TRIPS agreement will have to be looked at in the context of the pandemic. There cannot be any more vaccine nationalism, countries will have to be flexible about it,' she said.

The TRIPS agreement is a legal pact between all the member nations of the World Trade Organization (WTO). It establishes minimum standards for regulation by national governments of different forms of intellectual property as applied to nationals of other WTO member nations. The agreement has been in force from January 1995.

Participating in a virtual Governors' seminar, Sitharaman said there is a need to have a global multilateral approach to deal with the COVID pandemic.

One critical point in ramping up the production (of COVID vaccine) capacity is access to critical raw materials, she said.

'Although we speak about global value chain and the need for countries to open up trade and also facilitate free movement of raw materials, critical components, critical APIs and so on, we find that the movement of critical raw materials for production of vaccines is finding certain hiccups. We would love that to be sorted out at the earliest so that India can produce,' she said.

It is important that critical raw materials are available and made to flow freely, she said, adding, two more vaccines, including a nasal spray are in the offing to treat COVID.

Indian vaccine manufacturers, including Serum Institute of India (SII), faced problems in production last month as Europe and the US banned export of critical raw materials.

Tagging the Twitter handle of the President of the United States, SII CEO Adar Poonawalla had tweeted, 'Respected @POTUS, if we are to truly unite in beating this virus, on behalf of the vaccine industry outside the U.S., I humbly request you to lift the embargo of raw material exports out of the U.S. so that vaccine production can ramp up. Your administration has the details.' Ban was lifted post Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the US President Joe Biden discussions on issues related to COVID crisis in India last week.

Modi had also discussed India's initiative at the WTO for a relaxation in the norms of the agreement on TRIPS to ensure quick and affordable access to vaccines and medicines for developing countries.

Noting that India being a pharmaceutical hub, Sitharaman on Monday said, 'we have readily and generously extended help for the global community earlier this year and we can see that gesture being returned as a favour now.' She thanked the global community for expressing solidarity with India at this time, when the country is in the grip of the second COVID wave.

Praising the efforts of two vaccine manufacturers including Bharat Biotech, she said they have definitely worked together with the government and kept their profit considerations aside.

They have given vaccines at an affordable price for the government to distribute it freely for all citizens, she added.

Post pandemic, she said, 'the future as I said, will have to be based on principles of openness, transparency, fairness, sustainability and inclusiveness'.

If you're actually aiming at resilient and sustainable growth particularly coming out of the pandemic, she said, 'I think, regional cooperation we have to focus on and multilateral institutions working towards building digital assets, creation of digital assets, and above all, giving education and health digitisation for all.' As regards global climate action, she said, India is committed to all the Paris agreement-based commitments and it is well on a course to fulfill all those commitments.

About efforts of the government to keep the wheels of economy running during the pandemic, Sitharaman said the government extended financial assistance to various sectors.

Observing that MSMEs are the backbone of the economy, she said the government has extended financial assistance in terms of Rs 3 lakh crore loan guarantee to help them amid the pandemic. PTPI DP CS RAM