US looking to produce of J&J's COVID-19 vaccine in India
The United States is considering the production of Johnson & Johnson's COVID-19 vaccine in India along with ways to help manufacturers like the Serum Institute of India (SII) to boost production, Daniel B Smith, Charge d'Affaires of the US Embassy, said on Tuesday. Smith also expressed concern for India "not simply because of the humanitarian catastrophe, but the fact that it has global implications."
Determined to encourage licensing, more production, says US official
At a press briefing, Smith said the US Development Finance Cooperation is contemplating how it could invest, supply raw material, and help produce the J&J COVID-19 vaccine in India. "We are determined to do all we can as a government to encourage licensing and more production. If there is a need for capital, we will look at...whether we can provide assistance," he said.
'India's role in the production of COVID-19 vaccines critical'
The US official, who recently served as acting Secretary of State and acting Deputy Secretary of State, said that he is aware of private-sector production talks with other pharmaceutical companies that are currently underway. Noting that India's role in the production of COVID-19 vaccines is critical, he added the production levels of the SII and other manufacturing institutes were being carefully monitored.
Might partner with other countries to meet shortfall: Smith
Acknowledging that India's diversion of indigenously-manufactured vaccines to address its domestic needs was "absolutely understandable," he noted that production in neighboring countries needs to be boosted. "A lot of these countries are at risk...We are looking to partner with other countries...to make up for whatever shortfall exists as a result of India's own dire need for these vaccines," he said.
'Have to work together to address supply chain issues'
Smith said many companies that manufacture key components and raw materials are located in the United States, but others are not. There was a need to address issues regarding the supply chain, he said. "We're going to have to work together as a global community to address some of these supply chain issues and challenges that we face as we go forward," he added.
Biden administration decides to not use AstraZeneca; won't be exported
Smith said the stockpile of the AstraZeneca vaccine wouldn't be exported till the Food and Drug Administration certifies its safety and efficacy. The Biden administration, he added, decided not to use the AstraZeneca jabs as it has sufficient stocks of three other vaccines, even as Public Health England recently said a single dose of AstraZeneca vaccine results in an 80% less risk of death.
US, Japan had announced financial assistance for Indian vaccine manufacturer
Following a meet of the Quad leaders in March, the US DFC announced it would work with India's Biological E to produce one billion doses of COVID-19 vaccines by 2022-end, including J&J vaccines. In the landmark collaboration, it was announced that vaccines would be manufactured in India for the Indo-Pacific region with financial assistance from the US and Japan and logistical contributions from Australia.
'Waiver of patent protections at WTO a complex process'
Despite support from the Biden administration, Smith cautioned that a proposal by India and South Africa for the waiver of patent protections for COVID-19 vaccines at the World Trade Organization would be a long, complex process. "The WTO is a consensus-based organization. We're going to have to negotiate this with our partners in the WTO...We're ramping up all of our efforts," he said.