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India hopeful US will soon end curbs on vaccine raw materials export: Government sources

One of the officials said the administration of President Joe Biden had told India that its request was being considered and would be acted upon "at the earliest".

April 20, 2021 / 08:36 AM IST
File image of the Covaxin COVID-19 vaccine

File image of the Covaxin COVID-19 vaccine

India is hopeful the United States will soon lift a ban on vaccine raw materials that has threatened to slow output of shots in the country, two Indian government sources told Reuters on Monday, after the foreign ministers of the two nations spoke.

One of the officials said the administration of President Joe Biden had told India that its request was being considered and would be acted upon "at the earliest".

India's foreign ministry said it did not have anything more to add than Foreign Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar's tweet that he and U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken had discussed, among other things, "issues pertaining to our health cooperation".

The U.S. State Department confirmed the two diplomats discussed COVID-19, but did not give details.

Washington has invoked the wartime powers of the Defense Production Act to preserve vaccine raw materials for its own companies, but the Serum Institute of India (SII), the world's biggest vaccine maker, has said this went against the global goal of sharing vaccines equitably.

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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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Asked about the restrictions on exports, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said inequities in access to vaccines were "completely unacceptable," but declined to detail additional U.S. action to address that.

India is currently facing the world's worst surge in coronavirus infections, which has led to a clamour for vaccines. India, with the world's biggest vaccine-making capacity, has also stopped major vaccine exports to meet local demand.

The potential movement on raw materials comes days after the SII chief executive tweeted directly to Biden to end the supply curb.

"U.S. needs to lift restrictions for APIs without which there cannot be vaccines for all," said one of the sources, referring to active pharmaceutical ingredients.

SII is licensed to make the AstraZeneca shot as well another developed by U.S. company Novavax
Reuters
first published: Apr 20, 2021 08:36 am

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