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COVID-19 Update: USTR, Piyush Goyal discuss vaccine production and TRIPS waiver

India's COVID-19 tally crossed the 10 million mark on December 19 and in under six months it has doubled, surpassing the grim milestone of 20 million cases on May 4.

May 15, 2021 / 08:28 AM IST
India is in the midst of a deadly wave of the coronavirus pandemic, with 3,43,144 people testing positive for the virus on May 14, taking the country's caseload to 2,40,46,809. (File image: Piyush Goyal)

India is in the midst of a deadly wave of the coronavirus pandemic, with 3,43,144 people testing positive for the virus on May 14, taking the country's caseload to 2,40,46,809. (File image: Piyush Goyal)

Union Commerce and Industry Minister Piyush Goyal discussed the proposed waiver to provisions of the World Trade Organization's (WTO) Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) for COVID-19-specific items and raising vaccine production with United States Trade Representative (USTR), Katherine Tai, in a virtually meeting on May 14.

During the meeting, Tai conveyed her deep sympathy for the people of India as the country battles a deadly wave of COVID-19 and reaffirmed the commitment of the United States to help India, the USTR said in a readout of the call.

India is in the midst of a deadly wave of the coronavirus pandemic, with 3,43,144 people testing positive for the virus on the day, taking the country's caseload to 2,40,46,809. The death toll stands at 2,62,317.

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India's COVID-19 tally crossed the 10 million mark on December 19 and in under six months it has doubled, surpassing the grim milestone of 20 million cases on May 4.

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COVID-19 Vaccine

Frequently Asked Questions

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How does a vaccine work?

A vaccine works by mimicking a natural infection. A vaccine not only induces immune response to protect people from any future COVID-19 infection, but also helps quickly build herd immunity to put an end to the pandemic. Herd immunity occurs when a sufficient percentage of a population becomes immune to a disease, making the spread of disease from person to person unlikely. The good news is that SARS-CoV-2 virus has been fairly stable, which increases the viability of a vaccine.

How many types of vaccines are there?

There are broadly four types of vaccine — one, a vaccine based on the whole virus (this could be either inactivated, or an attenuated [weakened] virus vaccine); two, a non-replicating viral vector vaccine that uses a benign virus as vector that carries the antigen of SARS-CoV; three, nucleic-acid vaccines that have genetic material like DNA and RNA of antigens like spike protein given to a person, helping human cells decode genetic material and produce the vaccine; and four, protein subunit vaccine wherein the recombinant proteins of SARS-COV-2 along with an adjuvant (booster) is given as a vaccine.

What does it take to develop a vaccine of this kind?

Vaccine development is a long, complex process. Unlike drugs that are given to people with a diseased, vaccines are given to healthy people and also vulnerable sections such as children, pregnant women and the elderly. So rigorous tests are compulsory. History says that the fastest time it took to develop a vaccine is five years, but it usually takes double or sometimes triple that time.

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Tai explained her support for the waiver of intellectual property (IP) protections for COVID-19 vaccines and text-based negotiations at the WTO, which are part of the Joe Biden administration's comprehensive effort to expand vaccine manufacturing and distribution around the world.

Tai recognised the WTO members who have expressed support for future negotiations and welcomed an update from Goyal on India's efforts to revise and re-submit their waiver proposal, the release said.

India and South Africa have been pushing a resolution at the WTO that would force pharmaceutical companies to hand over their COVID-19 vaccine and therapy IP to manufacturers in low-income countries. The waiver is backed by nearly 100 other low-income countries, progressive groups and more than 100 Democratic Congress members.

Follow our full coverage on COVID-19 here.
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