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India’s ‘Vaccine Maitri’ initiative earns praise at WTO

Amiti Sen New Delhi | Updated on March 03, 2021

Caribbean countries, ACP group ask other vaccine-producing nations to improve supplies

India’s ‘Vaccine Maitri’ drive is reaping diplomatic benefits for the country with the 79-member African, Caribbean, Pacific (ACP) group and the 15-member Caribbean Community (CARICOM) praising India at the WTO for facilitating vaccine supplies to those in need. These countries also suggested that other vaccine-producing countries should also follow suit.

“We thank the governments of India and South Africa as well as the African Union for their generosity and solidarity at this time. The government of India, through the generosity of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, has donated an initial instalment of 170,000 vaccines to Barbados and Dominica through bilateral arrangements. We thank our sister CARICOM member states Barbados and Dominica for having shared the initial supplies from India with other CARICOM member states,” St Lucia put forward to WTO members this week at the General Council meeting.

St Lucia further informed that India had dispatched an additional 175,000 vaccines to five CARICOM member states. “This act of selflessness is testament to the solidarity of the government and people of India with CARICOM. We thank you,” the representative said.

The CARICOM region, which also includes countries such as Antigua and Barbuda, the Bahamas, Belize, Grenada, Guyana, Jamaica, Haiti, Suriname, and Trinidad and Tobago, does not manufacture Covid-19 vaccines and is therefore totally reliant on external manufacturers for supply.

Vaccine inequity

Heads of governments of member countries expressed their dissatisfaction and deep concern about the inequitable access to vaccines for small states like those of the Caribbean community at a recent international conference.

“The heads also noted that, to date, even countries with the funds to purchase have been unable to procure and receive vaccines through commercial arrangements. In this regard, they have called for a mechanism that allows smaller countries to have access to sufficient vaccines at the earliest juncture if action is to be put behind the oft-repeated phrase that no one is safe until everyone is safe,” St Lucia’s representation pointed out.

“We also implore all countries to work on improving trade logistics to enhance the timely delivery and access to vaccines,” the representation added.

On the same page with the CARICOM, the ACP group, represented by Jamaica, stated that there was no place for vaccine nationalism in this crisis situation, as no member will be spared the impact of the virus until all members are able to contain its spread. “Therefore, we recognise the efforts of countries such as India and South Africa that have arranged delivery of vaccines to many developing countries and LDCs (least developed countries). We urge other members to join this type of partnership,” Jamaica said.

India has supplied 36.37 million vaccine doses to 35 countries and UN health workers, as on March 1, under the `Vaccine Maitri’ initiative. Thirty nine more countries will be supplied in the coming days in Europe, North America, Latin America, Caribbean, Africa, South-East Asia and the Pacific Islands.

The India-South Africa proposal for temporary waiver of the WTO TRIPS (Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights) provisions, to ensure smoother and cheaper supply of vaccines worldwide, has got 57 sponsors, mostly developing countries and LDCs including African nations. Almost as many are supporting the proposal from the floor with the opposition mostly coming from developed nations.

Published on March 03, 2021

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