In an effort to provide Covid-19 vaccines across the world and specifically to countries in the Indo-Pacific, partners of the Quadrilateral or the ‘Quad’ are looking to cooperate and use the vaccine manufacturing capacities in India.
The Quad — India , US, Australia and Japan—is so far an alliance that is , so far, focused on military matters like joint exercises at sea. A joint effort to make vaccines, could be the stepping block for a firmer alliance as the arc of cooperation of widens in the face of an aggressive China.
Cumulatively, Indian vaccine manufacturers, have an installed capacity to produce 8.2 billion doses annually of different vaccines. If required, this capacity can be programmed to manufacture Covid -19 vaccines.
Dean Thompson, the Acting Assistant Secretary in the Bureau of South and Central Asian Affairs, overseeing US policy and relations with the countries in the region, at briefing on India and US cooperation on Covid-19 said “Together with our Quad partners – Japan and Australia – we’re continuing to identify options for cooperation in the areas of vaccine manufacturing capacity in India”.
The Quad cooperation will also extend to vaccine administration and delivery across the Indo-Pacific region. The US and India, Thompson said, continue to engage at the highest levels, including at the ministerial level conversation, on global vaccine distribution and addressing worldwide shortages of critical inputs for vaccine production.
Thompson was referring to meeting between Indian External Affairs Minister Dr. S. Jaishankar and Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken on May 28. A read out of the US State Department also referred to the Quad cooperation. Blinken reaffirmed the Administration’s commitment to deepening the US-India Comprehensive Global Strategic Partnership. “Secretary Blinken and Minister Jaishankar discussed a broad range of issues, including COVID-19 relief, efforts to strengthen Indo-Pacific cooperation through the Quad”, it said. Read it here
India US priority is expanding vaccine production
Expanding the production of safe and effective Covid -19 vaccines is a top priority for both the United States and India. The COVID-19 cooperation, has become the cornerstone of relations between India and US that aim to partner in tackling the growing Chinese threat in the Indo-Pacific. The latest crisis has only strengthened the commitment to work together on the covid-19 response.At the Blinken-Jaishankar meeting, it was discussed how India and US can cooperate together both bilaterally and on the larger Quad context.
Dr Jaishankar tweeted his appreciation for the help. “Also focused on Indo-US vaccine partnership aimed at expanding access and ensuring supply. Appreciated strong solidarity expressed by US at this time”.
No ban on export of Vaccine inputs
The issue of supply- line of ingredients for the vaccines was brought up at the briefing conducted by Thompson. On being asked if the Defense Production Act kind of clogs up the supply chain, Thompson said
“Just to be clear, there is no export ban on vaccines or vaccine inputs. The President ( Joe Biden) has been very clear that we’re working to be in a position to be able to share vaccines as well as knowhow with countries in real need, and our top priority is just making sure that we’re doing everything we can to save lives and end the pandemic”.
US to work with Indian Company
In addition, the US is working through the US Development Finance Corporation and ‘Biological E’ in India to produce at least a billion doses of safe and effective COVID-19 vaccines by the end of 2022, which would include the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. US has redirected its own order of AstraZeneca manufacturing supplies to India, which will facilitate the production of over 20 million doses of covid-19 vaccine in India.
multilateral mechanisms like Quad are expected to facilitate equitable global delivery of the vaccines.
Also the United States which happens to the largest contributor to the COVAX facility, intends to continue to take a leadership role in galvanizing further contributions, including by providing an additional $2 billion of support through 2021 and 2022. India’s Serum Institute is one of the global makers of the Covax.
The Biden administration has made very clear that in service of ending the pandemic, the US is supporting a waiver of IPR protections.