Covid-19 vaccine ‘diplomacy’: India to expand cooperation with neighbouring countries for Coronavirus vaccine development

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Updated: Nov 01, 2020 1:43 PM

In the wake of the Covid-19 challenge, India, Bangladesh and Myanmar will come together to collaborate on the development of COVID-19 vaccine.

Some experts fear vaccines may not even meet the 50% efficacy threshold that the WHO has advised for vaccine candidates qualifying for use.Pfizer vaccine requires to be stored at minus 70 degrees unlike other vaccine candidates.

In the wake of the Covid-19 challenge, India, Bangladesh and Myanmar will come together to collaborate on the development of COVID-19 vaccine. This will give a boost to India’s `Neighbourhood First’ and `Act East Policy’.

Top officials from the Ministry of External Affairs as well as related agencies have had meetings with the governments of Bangladesh and Myanmar on the possible joint production, distribution and supply of COVID-19 vaccine.

In response to a question by Financial Express Online, the official spokesperson of Ministry of External Affairs (MEA), Anurag Srivastava said, “Two training modules for our neighbouring countries have been organized. Around 90 health experts and scientists have participated. And the plan is to expand these programmes to other countries which are interested.

In September, in his speech to the United Nations General Assembly, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had announced that to help all humanity, India’s vaccine production and delivery capacity will be used in fighting the COVID-19 pandemic. He also said “India also will help all the countries in enhancing their cold chain and storage capacities for the delivery of Vaccines.”

According to Anurag Srivastava, “Earlier this month Oct 17-19, a delegation from the concerned departs was in Bangladesh between Oct 17-19. They met with their Bangladeshi counterparts on the current stage of the vaccine. The two sides discussed the modalities of clinical trials in Bangladesh.”

With Myanmar, the concerned officials had a virtual interaction in that country’s interest in cooperation in the COVID-19 vaccines. And, as the vaccine development evolves the two countries will decide the modalities of cooperation.

Depending on the trials, India plans to expand the cooperation with other countries in clinical trials, capacity building for vaccine development, and later in production and delivery.

Expert View

Sharing his view with Financial Express Online, senior journalist and Bangladesh commentator Gautam Lahiri says, “It is a diplomatic victory on vaccine diplomacy. Bangladesh has agreed for the clinical trial of Indian vaccine. The government of Bangladesh had politely declined the offer of China which had asked for financial support for the trials of anti-COVID-19 vaccine produced by Sinovac Biotech Ltd in that country. With India, Bangladesh Company Beximco Pharmaceuticals Limited, which has tied up with Serum Institute of India has already signed an agreement for the supply of vaccine on a priority basis in Bangladesh.”

“It shows greater coordination between two countries to save people from the global pandemic of COVID-19,” Gautam Lahiri added.

India helps all

India has been helping neighbours and those needing help across the globe since the pandemic erupted. As has been reported earlier, help was rushed immediately to Bangladesh and to those who sought help. A SAARC Emergency Response Fund for COVID-19 was set up based on Prime Minister Modi’s call. Bangladesh committed around USD 1.5 million to the fund.

“As India is known globally to produce over 60% of the world’s vaccine, the plan is production on a large scale once the scientific community gives its approval. Thereafter India will reach this vaccine to neighbours first and all other countries who want,” explained a senior officer.

India-Mexico

At a recently concluded 5th Meeting of the India-Mexico Bilateral High-Level Group on Trade, Investment and Cooperation, both sides exchanged notes on vaccine development for fighting COVID-19. Sources have confirmed to Financial Express Online that, “India has invited Mexico to think about government procurement of pharmaceuticals.”

Also in November, there will be an India-Mexico virtual meet on “Vaccines and Pandemic management” under the India-Mexico Programme of Cooperation 2020-2022.

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