Prime Minister calls for WHO reform

May 13, 2022 12:00 am | Updated 05:41 am IST - New Delhi

At global summit on COVID-19, Modi also seeks a review of the vaccine approval processes

Precious doses:Over 90% of the adult population in India has received at least one dose of COVID-19 vaccine.K. PichumaniK. Pichumani

Precious doses:Over 90% of the adult population in India has received at least one dose of COVID-19 vaccine.K. PichumaniK. Pichumani

A week after the government denied the World Health Organisation’s figures for deaths in India linked to COVID-19, Prime Minister Narendra Modi called for a reform of the UN health body, and a review of its processes on vaccine approvals.

The Prime Minister was speaking at the second global COVID-19 summit co-hosted by the United States, which was addressed virtually by U.S. President Joseph Biden, and a number of other leaders including those from the African Union, European Union, Canada, Germany, South Africa, Japan and South Korea.

Mr. Modi also called for the World Trade Organisation to be more “flexible” on the issue of patent waivers, where a joint India-South Africa proposal made in 2020 has not yet been adopted.

“WHO must be reformed and strengthened to build a more resilient global health security architecture,” the Prime Minister said in his speech at the opening session. “We also call for streamlining WHO’s approval process for vaccines and therapeutics to keep supply chains stable and predictable.”

In a report released last week, the WHO had estimated 4.7 million deaths directly or indirectly linked to COVID-19 in India in the years 2020 and 2021, about 10 times what the government figures estimate.

Government sources had called the study flawed, and contested the data, collection methodology and model used by the WHO, adding that India’s concerns had been raised with WHO Director-General Tedros Ghebreyesus during his visit to India.

India also protested the long delay in obtaining WHO approval for the Indian-made Covaxin developed by Bharat Biotech, which was finally given in November 2021.

In his speech at the session, Mr. Ghebreyesus referred to the massive global COVID-19 deaths estimate of just under 15 million people worldwide, and called for a renewed push for vaccine supply and distribution to reach a goal of 70% of the population, funding the WHO’s Access to COVID-19 Tools (ACT) Accelerator, and more contributions to close the funding gap for countering COVID.

In his speech, Mr. Modi said India’s vaccination programme is the largest in the world and that India has fully vaccinated almost 90% of the adult population.

“India supplied over 200 million doses to 98 countries, bilaterally and through COVAX (global distribution network). India has developed low-cost COVID mitigation technologies for testing, treating and data management. We have offered these capabilities to other countries,” the Prime Minister added.

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