The US has said it is looking forward to an “overarching” memorandum of understanding to enhance health partnership with India and asserted that the cooperation between the two countries on COVID-19 builds on decades of successful collaboration in health and biomedical research.
The US on Monday crossed the grim milestone of 500,000 COVID-19 deaths. With 28,184,218 coronavirus cases and 500,172 deaths due to the disease so far, as recorded by Johns Hopkins University, America is the worst-affected nation.
“We look forward to an overarching MoU to enhance health cooperation between our two countries (US and India). We are working together on developing diagnostics, therapeutics, vaccines to combat the disease (COVID-19) and to recognise the importance of manufacturing critical drugs during this time and making them accessible globally,” State Department Spokesperson Ned Price told reporters at his daily news conference on Monday.
The total number of coronavirus cases in India stands at 1,10,05,850 — the second in the world after the US. The death toll is 1,56,385 — fourth globally.
“When it comes to the broad issue of coordination between the United States and India on COVID-19, I would say that cooperation between our two countries builds on decades of successful partnership in health and biomedical research,” Price said.
He said India’s pharmaceutical sector is strong and well-established and has long played a central role in manufacturing life saving vaccines for global use.
“We are pleased that the US pharmaceutical industry has been coordinating with Indian companies since the beginning of this pandemic,” Price said, responding to a question on India donating and supplying domestically manufactured COVID-19 vaccines to several countries across the globe.
Known as the ‘pharmacy of the world’, India produces 60 per cent of vaccines globally. India has sent consignments of domestically manufactured coronavirus vaccines to several countries, including Nepal, Bangladesh, Bhutan, the Maldives, Seychelles, Myanmar, Mauritius, Oman, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, South Africa, Brazil and Morocco.
From the initial days of the COVID outbreak, Indian and US scientists and institutions have been actively engaged in exchange of information, supply of medicines and medical supplies. Indian vaccine companies are collaborating with US based agencies to develop and produce a vaccine against COVID-19 on a rapid platform.
Six such vaccines are currently under development, in addition to several research initiatives aimed at developing therapeutics and diagnostics to combat the pandemic.
The vaccines under India-US Joint collaborations are Bharat Biotech and Precision Virologics (based in St Louis, Missouri); Bharat Biotech and Thomas Jefferson University, Philadelphia; Serum Institute of India and Codagenix; Serum Institute and Novavax; Bharat Biotech and University of Wisconsin-Madison and Flugen; and Pune-based Gennova and HDT Biotech Corporation, Seattle.
The US is partnering with India to strengthen the global response to COVID-19 — ranging from addressing infectious disease outbreaks, strengthening health systems to securing global supply chains, Price said.
India and the US recently welcomed an initiative to collaborate on infectious disease, including COVID-19 and other emerging threats, through the International Centre of Excellence and Research, he said.
In a recent op-ed in Newsweek magazine, India’s Ambassador to the US, Taranjit Singh Sandhu, wrote that in recent years, India has emerged as the “pharmacy of the world”, with great capabilities in bulk production of generic drugs and vaccines, in addition to its experience immunising a large population.
India recently stepped up to provide vaccines to neighbouring countries and other partners, including in Africa, Latin America, the Middle East and Asia, he said.
The US has resources and scientific capabilities that make it a natural, complementary partner in supporting a number of other countries seeking to fight the pandemic, Sandhu wrote.
“Furthermore, from the provision of active pharmaceutical ingredients to generic medicines that have lowered drug prices and created jobs and investments, India has demonstrated its reliability as a supply chain partner, especially as de-risking from single country supplies has become a priority,” he said.