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Jaishankar, African Union flag ‘vaccine equity’

External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar with Italian Foreign Minister Luigi Di Maio during G20 Foreign Ministers’ Meeting in Matera, Italy, June 29, 2021   | Photo Credit: PTI

International cooperation is the way forward to deal with vaccine requirements to counter the threat of COVID-19 pandemic, External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar said on Tuesday during the G20 Foreign Ministers meeting at Matera in Italy.

The comment came on a day when the African Union said Covishield of Serum Institute of India has been the “backbone” of the vaccination programme in the continent supported by EU under the COVAX programme.

“Institutional multilateralism has been found wanting. Reforms have many forms but vaccine equity will be the immediate test,” said Mr. Jaishankar, urging international cooperation to ensure supply of vaccines, medicines, oxygen and protective gear to counter the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Minister's reference to “vaccine equity” echoed closely the statement from the African Union and the Africa Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC) which “noted with concern” reports that Serum Institute of India's Covishield vaccine has not received clearance from the European Medicines Authority (EMA). The AU noted that EU has authorised the European version of AstraZeneca vaccine named Vaxzevria but the same was not extended to Covishield which is meant for India and lower income countries of Africa.

Also read: Serum’s supply to COVAX hit by India’s poor planning

“..the current applicability guidelines put at risk the equitable treatment of persons having received their vaccines in countries profiting from the EU-supported COVAX Facility, including the majority of African Union (AU) member states,” a statement from AU and Africa CDC said.

“Covishield, despite being able to demonstrate proof of vaccination, would continue to be subject to public health restrictions, would continue to be subject to public health restrictions, including limitations of movement and testing requirements, with considerable administrative and financial implications,” said the statement from Africa.

The EU, however, maintained on Tuesday that the “Green Pass” or the digital permit that will allow travellers to EU countries unrestricted permission to travel beginning from July 1, is not a “pre condition” and left space for national governments to permit travellers who have been vaccinated with doses that are authorised by the WHO.

The current logjam regarding EU authorities and Covishield stems from the fact that the manufacturers of Covishield did not apply for the clearance. EU maintained that the “EMA does not investigate new drugs on its own, unless it is asked by the relevant companies”. The Serum Institute of India has said it is working to get the permission from the EMA.

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Printable version | Oct 17, 2021 7:19:42 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/jaishankar-african-union-flag-vaccine-equity/article35043840.ece

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