Corona vaccine collaboration

Kashmir Times. Dated: 8/24/2020 10:55:42 AM

Scientific advancement and innovations should be the aim for collaboration on finding a vaccine for the Coronavirus infection

The claims of some of the companies and countries on having found some leads in developing a wonder vaccine for Coronavirus infection cure appear very hazy in view of the fact that historically finding medicines for such viruses is difficult in such a short period. The clarification from the Ministry of External Affairs clears the air over India’s position on collaborative efforts with potential foreign scientific agencies and the countries that are leading the research in this field. The Indian MEA has also clarified that an expert group has been set up for this purpose and it will decide the collaborative efforts with the leading research institutes mainly Russia, which claimed to have found the vaccine and ready for mass production after the final trials. The MEA has said that any such venture will be contingent on an evaluation by the ‘National Expert Group on Vaccine Administration for Coronavirus’. This sends the right message that due processes will be followed and science, not geopolitics or ideological considerations, will be the prime mover in the country’s choice of collaborators. Three vaccine candidates - developed by the US-based pharmaceutical major Moderna, Oxford University and AstraZeneca and China’s Sinopharm - have entered the final stage of clinical trials which will determine if these compounds are safe for mass use. These trials could take four to six months or may be more. But even as the jury is out on critical matters related to safety and efficacy, several countries, including the US, Germany, Britain and France, have entered into pre-purchase agreements with vaccine manufacturers. There are fears that such advance agreements will make the vaccines inaccessible to everyone apart from people in the developed countries. In fact, just about 10 years ago, the US and several European countries used their purchasing power to edge out developing and Third World countries from the initial supplies of the HINI vaccine. There are indications that India is alive to the perils of vaccine nationalism. External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar reportedly discussed vaccine cooperation last week with his German counterpart, Heiko Maas. Bangladesh has indicated its readiness to participate in the clinical trials of a vaccine developed in India. India needs to hold talks with other South Asian countries for collaboration that could not only boost supply but also research in this field in a better way than most other poor countries.
Apart from these efforts, it is important to note that India’s leadership in supply of catering to demand to the extent of 60 percent vaccines to rest of the world should be maintained with innovations and advance research in the field of medicines. In fact, it will be in the interest of Third World countries that such efforts are made fully collaborative and access to modern medicines is free from pressures of the developed countries. The Serum Institute of India, one of the partners of the Oxford-AstraZeneca project, is the world’s largest vaccine manufacturer. The country should leverage its manufacturing capacities to secure more collaborations in view of the country’s demographics, India is very likely to need more than one vaccine. The foreign ministry has said that it will play the role of a facilitator in this endeavour. It’s up to the country’s scientific agencies to ensure that science is in the driving seat of such collaborative ventures instead of politics that is guided by narrow ideological interests. Such an effort will not only be beneficial for the people of India but also the entire South East Asian region, which is dependent of many medical supplies from India. This can also pave the way for future collaborations that can help in finding cure for many other flues and infections afflicting the region compared to rest of the world.



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