Shots developed by Pfizer and Moderna were the first mRNA COVID-19 vaccines to be rolled out in the world. (Representative image)
India is a ''vaccine powerhouse'' and America's work with the country in vaccine manufacturing is saving people's lives, the head of the US International Development Finance Corporation, David Marchick, has said ahead of his India visit.
The United States International Development Finance Corporation (DFC) is America’s development bank, which invests in developing countries around the world.
Leading a high-powered delegation, DFC Chief Operating Officer (COO) Marchick would travel to India from October 24 to 26.
India is the most important and largest partner for DFC investment amounting to more than USD 2.3 billion, which is almost eight per cent of its overall exposure, Marchick said ahead of his India visit beginning Sunday.
“We have a very ambitious pipeline. We are very, very excited to work with India to drive economic development and strengthen the partnership between the United States and India,” Marchick told PTI in a recent interview.
The DFC COO is currently visiting South Africa, from where he is scheduled to travel to India.
“Normally the DFC’s work lifts up people's lives. Our work with India on vaccine manufacturing is saving people's lives,” he said in response to a question.
During his India trip, Marchick is scheduled to travel to Hyderabad where he will visit the offices of the Indian vaccine manufacturer Biological E and participate in a signing ceremony to open a new facility with substantial capacity for vaccine manufacturing.
“India is a vaccine powerhouse. It has very innovative and productive companies in the space. They're producing huge numbers of vaccines,” he said. At the same time, he noted that the world needs additional capacity.
“India is an absolutely critical part of the solution for the pandemic, given that it is a vaccine powerhouse,” Marchick said, underlining that India reaching the milestone of one billion doses is extraordinary.
India scripted history on Thursday with the cumulative COVID-19 vaccine doses administered in the country surpassing the 100-crore milestone.
Prior to the start of the pandemic, total vaccine manufacturing capacity around the world was around five billion. That's for all vaccines, including for polio and yellow fever.
“We need somewhere in the range of 11 billion doses of manufacturing capacity around the world for COVID alone. So, India can play a huge role in filling that gap. And the DFC, the Biden administration, is using its tools to help expand vaccine manufacturing in India and around the world to help get shots in arms,” Marchick said.
This work is in advancement of the historic commitment set out by President Joe Biden and his counterparts in the 'Quad' -- Australia, India, Japan and the US.
On September 24, Biden hosted the first-ever in-person summit of Quad leaders at the White House. At President Biden's invitation, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his counterparts Scott Morrison from Australia and Yoshihide Suga from Japan had attended the Quad summit.
After the conclusion of the summit, the Quad leaders in a joint statement had said that in addition to doses financed through COVAX, the four-nation bloc has pledged to donate more than 1.2 billion doses globally of safe and effective COVID-19 vaccines and has so far delivered nearly 79 million safe, effective, and quality-assured vaccine doses to countries in the Indo-Pacific as part of those commitments.
Observing that American healthcare experts are in regular touch with the Indian authorities and companies to provide technical assistance, the COO said the DFC provided financing of about USD 50 million for a new facility to be built for Biological E and a new factory, which will substantially expand its capacity to allow it to manufacture in excess of a billion doses.
In addition to helping India expand its vaccine manufacturing capacity, DFC has been a major investor in India’s other sectors as well, he said.
“We're a huge investor in India. We have USD 2.3 billion of investments already. We have a significant pipeline of over USD 1 billion. So, we would be one of the larger investors in India. Our goal is to catalyse private sector financial activity,” he said.
DFC, he said, is particularly focused on four sectors: climate, health, equity and gender opportunities and then technology. These are obviously four critical areas for the development of India's economy, Marchick observed.
On climate, obviously the president (Biden) has said that climate is an existential threat. “India is a linchpin in having the world address the climate crisis,” Marchick said, adding that Prime Minister Narendra Modi is seized with the issue and India ''has the most ambitious renewable energy strategy of any country in the world'' and we want to help and be a solution provider for that.
On gender equity, DFC’s main goal is to provide financing for small and medium sized enterprises that are run by women, are owned by women. “We have partnered with a number of financial institutions in India to provide them with liquidity and capital, which they can then lend to small and medium sized enterprises in India,” the COO said.
“In technology, obviously India is a powerhouse and we provide financing for various technology missions,” Marchick said. However, the main reason for the trip is vaccine and vaccine manufacturing.