US, India in talks over Covid vaccine exports
September 15 2021 12:21 AM
The US is communicating regularly with India in bilateral and multilateral channels to discuss the supply of Covid-19 vaccines and inquire about its timeline for restarting vaccine exports, a senior Biden administration official said.
The global pandemic will be a key topic on September 24, when US President Joe Biden will host the first in-person summit of leaders of the “Quad” countries – Australia, India, Japan and the US.
The visit by Prime Ministers Scott Morrison, Narendra Modi and Yoshihide Suga to the US will coincide with the United Nations General Assembly in New York, which Biden will address on September 21.
The Quad leaders met virtually in March and agreed to work closely on Covid-19 vaccines, but the initiative stalled after India, the world’s largest vaccine producer, was hit by a catastrophic wave of infections, and halted vaccine exports.
The administration official said Washington was staying in close touch with India and other Quad partners about the vaccine partnership, and “any factors that may affect this project or global vaccine supply,” but those discussions were not tied to a specific summit or engagement.
The official noted that Washington had diverted its own supply of raw materials for vaccine production to India in April, given its urgent needs, and global vaccine supply remained a key bottleneck to ending the pandemic.
“We commend India for being one of the largest manufacturers for safe and effective Covid-19 vaccines globally, and we note that Covax and the world rely heavily on India’s contributions,” the official said. “It’s important for the US to engage all our allies and partners on these matters so we can take the necessary actions to end this pandemic together.”
Meanwhile a study of 614 fully vaccinated health workers in India found a “significant” drop in their Covid-fighting antibodies within four months of the first shot.
The findings could help the Indian government decide whether to provide booster doses as some Western countries have done.
Waning antibodies do not necessarily mean that immunised people lose their ability to counter the disease, as the body’s memory cells may still kick in to offer substantial protection, said the director of a state-run institute that did the study.
“After six months, we should be able to tell you more clearly whether and when a booster would be needed,” Sanghamitra Pati of the Regional Medical Research Centre, based in the eastern city of Bhubaneswar, said yesterday.
“And we would urge similar studies in different areas for pan-India data.”
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