US Senators Urge Pfizer, Other American Vaccine Manufacturers To Share Technology With India
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US Senators Urge Pfizer, Other American Vaccine Manufacturers To Share Technology With India

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India is set to roll out its vaccination program for 18 to 45-year-olds,
who constitute the bulk of its 1.3 billion-strong population, from 1 May.
However, several state governments have been complaining to Prime Minister
Narendra Modi about crippling vaccine shortages as the two domestic vaccine
companies struggle to fulfil jab orders

Elizabeth Warren and four other senators on Thursday called upon the American
vaccine manufacturing companies to “expand access” to their jabs in India. She
said it while expressing concern that inequitable vaccine distribution could
lead to a global GDP loss of $1.2 trillion.

​“Though Pfizer, Moderna, Johnson & Johnson, and other companies have
developed safe and effective COVID-19 vaccines, the uncontrolled spread of
coronavirus poses significant risks to global vaccination efforts: as the
virus proliferates, it evolves—increasing the risk of a variant developing
that renders vaccinations ineffective,” said a letter by Warren to Albert
Bourla, the Chairman of Pfizer.

“A recent study estimates that unequal global vaccine distribution could
result in a gross domestic product loss of $1.2 trillion annually for the
global economy,” stated the senior Democratic Party senator.

Similar appeals have been made by four other senators — Edward J Markey
(D-Mass.), Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), Jeffrey A Merkley (D-Ore.), and Christopher
S. Murphy (D-Conn.) — to the managements of Moderna and Johnson & Johnson.

In their letters to the American vaccine manufacturers, the five senators said
that “voluntary technology transfer” between India and the US to scale up
production in the COVID-hit South Asian nation could take place through
several mechanisms.

“The World Health Organisation (WHO) has set up multiple mechanisms through
which technology transfer could occur, including through its ‘COVID-19
Technology Access Pool’ (C-TAP)-which calls on the global community to
voluntarily share knowledge, intellectual property and data necessary for
COVID-19… and its mRNA vaccine technology transfer hub, which seeks to
expand the capacity of low- and middle-income countries to produce COVID-19
vaccines and scale up manufacturing by facilitating the transfer of technology
and intellectual property to those countries,” Warren pointed out in her
letter.

The American senators have further demanded that these private companies also
back India and South Africa’s demand for a “temporary waiver” of Trade-Related
Intellectual Property Rules (TRIPS).

“Experts have also called for the US to support the temporary waiver of some
Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) rules proposed
by India and South Africa at the World Trade Organisation (WTO), ..which would
temporarily lift certain intellectual property barriers and allow countries to
locally manufacture COVID-19 diagnostics, treatments, and vaccines,” states
Warren’s letter to Pfizer.

Despite New Delhi’s call for a TRIPS waiver on the COVID vaccine being backed
by many developing countries as well as at least 60 American lawmakers, the
Joe Biden administration has so far remained non-committal regarding the
demand.

Warren further asked Pfizer and other vaccine companies when are they planning
to apply for an emergency use license in India, pursuant to New Delhi’s
invitations to these companies to apply for authorisation in the South Asian
nation.

“India has asked Moderna, Pfizer, and Johnson & Johnson to seek licenses
to distribute their vaccines in the country as a means of expanding supply.
Does Pfizer plan to apply for an emergency use license for its vaccines in
India? If so, when?” she asked.

The letter by the US senators has been written against the backdrop of a
devastating second wave in India, with the South Asian country recording over
300,000 new infections daily for a week now. India’s overall caseload of 18.3
million infections is the second worst globally, with only the US having
recorded more COVID cases.

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