Ease supply curbs on COVID vaccine raw materials, Indian think tank heads urge Biden administration
The authors urged the US administration to 'consider exceptions' to the Defense Production Act (DPA) of 1950, under which Washington has halted the export of raw materials
With an unprecedented COVID-19 crisis raging across India, a group of Indian think tanks have urged the United States to ease the global vaccine supply chain.
The article, addressed to the Biden administration, was written by Arvind Gupta, director of the Vivekananda International Foundation, Rudra Chaudhuri, director of Carnegie India, Harsh Pant, director of studies and the head of the Strategic Studies Programme at the Observer Research Foundation, Reuben Abraham, CEO of the IDFC Foundation and IDFC Institute, and Nitin Pai, co-founder and director of the Takshashila Institution.
The authors urged the US administration to “consider exceptions” to the Defense Production Act (DPA) of 1950, under which Washington has halted the export of raw materials critical for the production of COVID-19 vaccines.
While the DPA was first invoked by Donald Trump in early 2020, it continues to be in force during the term of Joe Biden.
This issue received global attention in recent days after Adar Poonawalla, CEO of the Serum Institute of India (SII), tagged Biden in a tweet.
Respected @POTUS, if we are to truly unite in beating this virus, on behalf of the vaccine industry outside the U.S., I humbly request you to lift the embargo of raw material exports out of the U.S. so that vaccine production can ramp up. Your administration has the details. 🙏🙏
— Adar Poonawalla (@adarpoonawalla) April 16, 2021
Further, the group, noting that India is currently facing an 'acute vaccine shortage', said, "Making sure that the tens of millions of Indians are able to access vaccines is the only way in which a country as geographically challenging as India will be able to turn the tables on this fast-moving disease."
The article also said that the Serum Institute of India, which manufactures the Covishield vaccine in India, is hamstrung in its efforts to produce vaccines for both the Indian and global markets, and sought relaxations on the supply of items such as "bags and filters, cell culture media, single-use tubing assemblies, and other raw materials".
"It is crucial to keep in mind that without these ingredients, it is increasingly unlikely that the Serum Institute will be able to prioritise vaccine production under contract — through global vaccine alliances such as Gavi — for countries across the world," it said.
However, several reports have said that restrictions under DPA will only affect the production of the Novavax vaccine (marketed as Covovax in India) by the Serum Institute and not the Covishield (Oxford-AstraZeneca) vaccine.
The article also remarked, "India is a partner of the United States like none other. Today, it is a country in need of a more supportive American approach to supply chains. This is a request to the United States administration to seriously, urgently, and actively consider exceptions to the DPA. Such action will, in time, not only save lives in India and other large parts of the world that have been reliant on vaccines manufactured in India, but will also reassure the world’s largest democracy of the promise of a truly global America."
"The United States has adequate supplies and more. It is now time to relax the prioritisation measures and products that fall under the purview of the DPA,” they added.
According to official data updated on Saturday, a record single-day rise of 3,46,786 coronavirus cases pushed India's tally of infection to 1,66,10,481, while active cases crossed the 25-lakh mark.
The death toll rose to 1,89,544 with a record 2,624 more fatalities in a day, the data updated at 8 am showed.
With inputs from PTI
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