The US is ramping up efforts in partnership with India and other countries to increase the availability of COVID-19 vaccines without waiting for the World Trade Organisation (WTO) to arrive at a consensus-based decision on a proposal for patents waiver on the vaccines, a senior American diplomat said on Tuesday.
US Charge D’Affaires Daniel Smith also described as a significant step the Biden administration’s decision to extend support to the proposal by India and South Africa on the patents waiver.
“I do want to stress that this was a significant step on the part of the Biden administration to take this and extend the support to the initiative India and South Africa had put forward to waive intellectual property restrictions when it comes to COVID-19 vaccines,” he said.
“We are just not waiting for that to take place. What we are also doing is ramping up all of our efforts across the board in partnership with India, in partnership with other countries to increase production of COVID-19 vaccines and increase their availability,” Smith said at an online media briefing.
He was responding to a question about the possible timeframe for the WTO to reach a decision on the proposal.
“WTO is a consensus-based organisation. So we are going to have to negotiate this with our partners at the WTO as we go forward,” he said.
Smith also said that the US was working on a list of raw materials and other supplies sought by India for manufacturing of the COVID-19 vaccines.
“We received a list from the government of India with a lot of raw materials and other materials that are needed for the manufacture of vaccines in India. We are now working closely with them to go through this list to decide what is available, what we can provide and how quickly we can provide that,” he said.
“I just want to say this is not an easy task, that is, there are global challenges in the global supply chain right now when it comes to precursors and raw materials that are necessary for these vaccines,” he added.
Smith said the US was determined to help India boost its vaccine production.
“We are determined to do what we can to help India boost its vaccine production because we recognise that India has a critical role to play,” he said, adding the global partnership between the two countries was key for the world’s recovery from the pandemic.
“We recognise that in helping India, we’re helping a lot more than just India,” Smith said.
The US Charge D’Affaires said the US is going to take steps in the near future that are expected to boost vaccine productions significantly.
Last week, the US said components of vaccines it supplied to India will enable it to manufacture 20 million doses of the Covishield vaccine.
Providing raw materials for the production of coronavirus vaccines was a major component of the Biden administration’s announcement on medical aid to India.
Asked about the distribution of American medical assistance to India, Smith said the US has “very good” visibility” of where the supplies have gone.
As India was facing a devastating second wave of coronavirus infections, the US rapidly deployed six plane-loads of life-saving supplies to support the country”s fight against the pandemic.
The US government’s assistance to India is estimated at USD 100 million.
Smith, who recently served as acting Secretary of State and acting Deputy Secretary of State, was appointed as Charge D”Affaires primarily to oversee and coordinate the US” assistance to India in dealing with the pandemic.