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US hopeful of India’s vaccine exports bouncing back to meet 2022 Indo-Pacific target

US says Indian vaccine exports will bounce back in 2022 (Photo: IANS)

The US is quite hopeful that India will bounce back from the current Covid-19 crisis and ramp up its vaccine manufacturing capacity to meet the target for producing 1 billion doses for the Indo-Pacific region by the end of 2022.

Kurt Campbell, US President Joe Biden’s adviser for the Indo-Pacific, on Tuesday said close discussions with India and other partners “suggest that we are still on track for 2022," according to a Reuters report.

Asked at an event hosted by the Centre for a New American Security think tank if he expected a delay in the vaccine production target for the Indo-Pacific region, Kurt Campbell said Washington had been in close consultation with India and others involved in the project.

"Obviously, this is an extremely difficult period for Indian friends. The United States has tried to stand with Delhi and to bring others, both in the private and public sector, to support them," he said.

"I think we're feeling relatively confident as we head in to 2022," he added, while stressing that across Asia and the world even countries that did well in handling the virus were facing outbreaks due to new strains.

"I think we understand, the only way to be effective, to counter this, is through vaccine diplomacy. We're trying to step that up more generally," Reuters cited him as saying.

India, the world’s largest vaccine producer, was struck by an unexpected second wave of coronavirus infections and was forced to restrict vaccine exports in order to tackle the crisis on the home front.

Indo-Pacific plan

The Indo-Pacific Quad alliance had at a summit in March convened by US President Joe Biden drawn up a clear action plan to accelerate the production of Covid-19 vaccines with India as the world’s vaccine manufacturing hub and the US and Japan providing the financial
backing. Australia will be pitching in as well to tackle the acute shortage of vaccines worldwide.

The four countries have agreed to set up a Quad Vaccine Experts Group, comprising top scientists and government officials of the four countries to implement the decisions.

The joint statement issued by the White House after the Quad summit states that the United States Development Finance Corporation, will work with India’s Biological E Ltd to finance increased capacity to support Indian pharma major Biological E to produce at least 1 billion
doses of COVID-19 vaccines by the end of 2022 which would include the single-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

The timeline for starting the production in India of the single-shot J& J vaccine has  been made easier as India has eased rules and done away with the restriction of bridging trials in the country before the manufacturing can start.

J&J will be one of the vaccines to be financed while Biological E’s own vaccine candidate is being developed with Baylor College of Medicine in Houston and U.S.-based Dynavax Technologies Corp which is undergoing clinical trials in India, with late-stage testing due to
begin in April. A top US scientist had recently lauded the effort for developing this vaccine candidate.

The other vaccines that are expected to be launched in India include Cadila Healthcare’s ZyCov-D and a Novavax product also to be produced by Serum Institute.

The Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI) had also recently agreed to an initial contribution of up to $5 million to Hyderabad-based Biological E towards the cost of scaling up the process of vaccine manufacturing.

Indian scenario
India has rolled out its vaccination campaign against the pandemic with two vaccines, Oxford's Covishield being manufactured by Serum Institute of India and Hyderabad-based Bharat Biotech's Covaxin.

Russia’s Sputnik V is the third vaccine that is now being used in the country for the inoculation drive that has been accelerated to cover the entire adult population in the country. Bulk imports of Sputnik V have already started and production of the vaccine will start next month.

As part of this plan to step up the availability of vaccines, the government’s top health adviser Dr VK Paul has said, “We will have 2 billion doses in the next five months – made by India and used by India.”

India has accelerated its vaccination drive and the government will be supplying the doses free of cost for all the citizens.

Also read: India’s setback deprives world of frontline fighter in war on Covid –19

Also read: After Sputnik V, Johnson & Johnson poised for India entry as govt eases rules for vaccines