Quad leaders vow to expand safe, affordable and effective vaccine production

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Washington, Mar 12 (PTI) Prime Minister Narendra Modi and three other Quad leaders on Friday decided to join forces to expand safe, affordable and effective vaccine production and equitable access in a bid to speed up economic recovery and benefit global health in the wake of the deadly COVID-19 pandemic.

In a joint statement issued after the first virtual summit of the Quad leaders, US President Joe Biden, Prime Minister Modi, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga recognised that none of them could be safe as long as the coronavirus pandemic continues to spread.

“Building on the progress our countries have achieved on health security, we will join forces to expand safe, affordable and effective vaccine production and equitable access, to speed economic recovery and benefit global health.

“With steadfast commitment to the health and safety of our own people, we also recognise that none of us can be safe as long as the pandemic continues to spread,” the leaders said in the Quad Leaders’ Joint Statement: “The Spirit of the Quad”.

They said that they will collaborate to strengthen equitable vaccine access for the Indo-Pacific, with close coordination with multilateral organisations including the World Health Organization and COVAX.

“We call for transparent and results-oriented reform at the World Health Organization,” they said, adding that to advance these goals and others, they redouble their commitment to Quad engagement.

The four leaders said they will combine their nations’ medical, scientific, financing, manufacturing and delivery, and development capabilities and establish a vaccine expert working group to implement our path-breaking commitment to safe and effective vaccine distribution.

“We are committed to leveraging our partnership to help the world’s most dynamic region respond to historic crisis, so that it may be the free, open, accessible, diverse, and thriving Indo-Pacific we all seek,” they said.

In New Delhi, briefing reporters on the summit, Foreign Secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla said it was decided that India's manufacturing capacity is something that is going to be leveraged to make US vaccines.

He said the financing for creation of additional capacities will come from the US and Japan while Australia will contribute to the last mile logistics and delivery issues. Australia will finance countries which are going to receive the vaccines.

'In today's context, it is one of the most important initiatives. We are talking about huge investments in creating additional vaccine capacities in India for exports to countries in the Indo-Pacific region for their betterment. We are talking about producing a billion doses of vaccines by the end of 2022,' he said.

Shringla said the vaccine initiative is a special one which is designed pro-actively to mitigate the impact of COVID-19 among countries in the Indo-Pacific. 'India welcomes Quad vaccine initiatives as it recognises our own manufacturing capacities and capabilities,' he said.

In November 2017, India, Japan, the US and Australia gave shape to the long-pending proposal of setting up the Quad to develop a new strategy to keep the critical sea routes in the Indo-Pacific free of any influence. PTI CPS AKJ CPS