Equitable access to vaccines critical: S Jaishankar
Equitable distribution of Covid-19 vaccines can be achieved only with the creation of additional manufacturing capabilities in countries such as India, external affairs minister S Jaishankar said on Tuesday.
Participating in a session at the Raisina Dialogue that focused on vaccines and global expectations, Jaishankar held up India’s ability to manufacture a range of Covid-19 vaccines as an example of global cooperation and said this couldn’t be seen as a “one-way street”.
“Equitable access [to vaccines] is critically important in this [fight against the pandemic], because we all know that no one will be safe till everyone is safe,” he said during the virtual session moderated by Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation CEO Mark Suzman.
There is a need for additional production capabilities for vaccines, and without it, “distributive justice by itself will not be adequate”, he added.
Jaishankar said he could understand a country’s decision to focus on protecting its own people when it comes under stress because of rising infections and noted that the number of Covid-19 cases in India is going up too and the government chose to deal with the immediate challenge. “To the extent that you have margins and the ability and the obligation to help others, I think it’s the decent thing to do. Doing good is also doing smart,” he said.
Noting that India’s ability to make vaccines is a result of international cooperation, he added: “International cooperation is not a one-way street where we are giving things to other people and somewhere short-changing ourselves.”
Jaishankar’s comments came against the backdrop of the Indian government’s decision to exercise greater control over vaccine exports following a sudden spike in Covid-19 infections.
The country recorded 185,287 new cases and 1,026 deaths on Tuesday according to the HT dashboard. It has so far seen 13,871,325 cases and 172,134 deaths.
So far, India has provided 65.1 million doses of Covid-19 vaccines to 90 countries, including 10.6 million doses supplied as grants. India’s deliveries of vaccines to other countries followed on from its work in providing humanitarian aid to numerous countries after natural disasters and its actions to address climate crisis, Jaishankar said.
The Indian government’s partnership with the Gates Foundation is a “global fairness coalition” aimed at ensuring that weaker and vulnerable people in some countries don’t get left behind, he said. The work done by Indian vaccine manufacturer with the WHO-backed COVAX facility is ensuring that African and Caribbean countries which don’t have wherewithal to access the market get timely assistance, he added.
Part of India’s rise would be to demonstrate that its additional capabilities are in the “hands of a country which embraces the world”, said Jaishankar.