Quad pivots away from 1 billion Covid-19 jabs, will prep for future emergencies
The Quad Vaccine Partnership, announced by leaders of the grouping at their first summit in March 2021, envisaged delivery of at least one billion doses of Covid-19 vaccines by the end of 2022.
NEW DELHI: The Quadrilateral Security Dialogue, or Quad, has made a quiet pivot away from its ambitious goal of delivering one billion doses of Covid-19 vaccines across the Indo-Pacific to building up capabilities across the region for future health emergencies, people familiar with the matter said.
When the Quad Vaccine Partnership was announced by leaders of the grouping that brings together India, Australia, Japan and the US at their first summit in March 2021, it envisaged the delivery of at least one billion doses of Covid-19 vaccines by the end of 2022. These were to be US-developed jabs that were to be made in India with funding from the US and Japan.
With the grouping nowhere close to the target of producing one billion jabs even in the third quarter of 2022, people from two Quad member states familiar with the latest thinking said the four countries are now more focused on ramping up capabilities and vaccine manufacturing capacities across the Indo-Pacific and even in Africa to cope with future pandemics and health emergencies.
“The focus should not be too much on vaccines as there is no pressing demand for vaccines as of now. Most of the urgent requirements have been met and more can be achieved by working on building up the capacities to deal with emergencies in future,” one of the people said, seeking anonymity.
The Quad’s plan to manufacture Johnson & Johnson’s single-shot Janssen vaccine at Biological E in Hyderabad ran into problems over demand for indemnity, or protection from liabilities if a person is adversely affected by a vaccine, especially at a time when such a waiver had not been granted to Indian manufacturers. This issue also held up the import of vaccines made by Johnson & Johnson, Pfizer and Moderna into India.
“The Quad is working to create capabilities and capacities within the member states, across the Indo-Pacific and in places like Africa,” a second person said, declining to be named.
The Quad partners have collectively pledged about $5.2 billion to the COVAX facility, or 40% of the total contributions from government donors, and have individually delivered more than 670 million doses, including 265 million doses to the Indo-Pacific.
A joint statement issued after the Quad Leaders Summit in Tokyo on May 24 gave some indications of the movement away from delivering one billion doses of Covid-19 vaccines to creating facilities across the region. “The Quad countries have led and will continue to lead global efforts for Covid-19 response, with a view to building better health security and strengthening health systems,” the statement said.
The expansion of Johnson & Johnson vaccine production at Biological E is a “sustainable manufacturing capacity” that will yield long-term benefits in the fight against future pandemics, it said.
The statement also referred to Quad’s long-term plans to strengthen global health architecture and pandemic prevention, preparedness and response, including enhancing finance and health coordination. “Building on existing Quad collaboration, we will enhance our capacity to improve early detection and monitor new and emerging pathogens with pandemic potential, and work to increase resilience to epidemics and pandemics,” it said.
The Quad’s move appeared to have been influenced by contemporary needs, said Sameer Patil, senior fellow at the Observer Research Foundation. “While the pandemic presented an immediate opportunity for vaccine development and delivery, now that the Covid-19 crisis is easing, it no longer appears to be a promising area for the Quad.”
“At the same time, however, the grouping will have to prepare for similar future outbreaks and, therefore, the rationale for the continuing cooperation,” Patil added.