Shun vaccine nationalism, scientists tell government

The All India Peoples Science Network, in a statement issued on handling the second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic in India, said vaccine nationalism was a “wholly misconceived” idea and it must be given up.

“There is a wholly misconceived campaign being mounted, including by some political parties and sections of the media, that India should stop commercial and aid-based exports of vaccines so as to prioritise domestic needs,” the statement said.

Even before this, the Centre had imposed some restrictions on exports, potentially undoing the goodwill earned earlier by free supply of vaccines to friendly developing countries and by its substantial contribution to the international COVAX programme to supply vaccines to lower-income countries, the statement said. The release pointed out that India received around one-third of its supplies to COVAX, since India is also a beneficiary country and the largest recipient under the vaccine-sharing programme.

“China and India are amongst the few countries that are working to assist the global vaccination effort, especially in developing and low-income countries, and it would be cruel and immoral to weaken or close down this endeavor in an extremely selfish display of vaccine nationalism, and that too for very little benefit. This is a record to be proud of, not condemned,” the release stated.

The group also called for increasing the vaccine doses available in the country to step up the vaccination programme. While welcoming the government’s decision to invite other vaccines approved by the WHO and regulators in other countries to apply for approval in India, the AIPSN cautioned that modalities of import, pricing and distribution must be designed to allow all access to the vaccines. The group said the government should provide funds requested by the Serum Institute of India and Bharat Biotech to ramp up production.

The release recommended that several Indian manufacturers be involved, with licensing issues sorted out, in producing Covaxin in order to augment the supply of the vaccine. Those in the age group of 18-45 years with serious comorbidities should also be considered under the vaccine eligibility criteria.

Additionally, the AIPSN’s statement called upon the government to vigorously test, trace, isolate and treat infected persons, besides putting in place decentralised, locally relevant and evidence-based surveillance and containment strategies. The association also called for expanding gene-sequencing across the country and correlating the findings with epidemiological data.

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Printable version | May 18, 2021 3:42:23 AM |

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