Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Thursday called for reforming the World Health Organisation (WHO) and streamlining its approval process for vaccines and therapeutics, and favoured making flexible the WTO’s rules relating to trade-related aspects of intellectual property rights (TRIPS).
In his address at the second global virtual summit on COVID-19 hosted by US President Joe Biden, Modi also said that a coordinated global response is required to combat future health emergencies and called for building a resilient global supply chain for equitable access to vaccines and medicines.
Modi said the World Health Organisation must be reformed and strengthened to build a more resilient global health security architecture.
The prime minister’s call for making flexible rules of the WTO, particularly the TRIPS, came over a year-and-half after India and South Africa placed a proposal at the World Trade Organization (WTO) to temporarily waive intellectual property rights for producing COVID-19 vaccines to effectively deal with the pandemic.
“It is clear that a coordinated global response is required to combat future health emergencies. We must build a resilient global supply chain and enable equitable access to vaccines and medicines,” Modi said.
“The WTO rules, particularly TRIPS, need to be more flexible. WHO must be reformed and strengthened to build a more resilient global health security architecture,” he said in the opening session of the summit.
India has been pressing for the TRIPS waiver to ensure scaling up of the vaccine production for equitable and global access.
“We also call for streamlining WHO’s approval process for vaccines and therapeutics to keep supply chains stable and predictable. As a responsible member of the global community, India is ready to play a key role in these efforts,” Modi said.
In his address, the prime minister also spoke about how India’s Genomics Consortium has contributed significantly to the global database on the virus and added that New Delhi will extend this network to countries in its neighbourhood.
“In India, we extensively used our traditional medicines to supplement our fight against Covid and to boost immunity, saving countless lives. Last month, we laid the foundation of ‘WHO Centre for Traditional Medicine’ in India, with an aim to make this age-old knowledge available to the world,” he said.
Referring to India’s handling of the pandemic, Modi said the country has fully vaccinated almost 90 per cent of the adult population and more than 50 million children.
“Our vaccination programme is the largest in the world. We have fully vaccinated almost 90 per cent of the adult population, and more than 50 million children. India manufactures four WHO-approved vaccines and has the capacity to produce five billion doses this year,” he said.
“We supplied over 200 million doses to 98 countries, bilaterally and through COVAX. India has developed low-cost Covid mitigation technologies for testing, treating and data management. We have offered these capabilities to other countries,” Modi said.
The prime minister said the Covid pandemic continues to disrupt “lives, supply chains, and tests the resilience of open societies.” “In India, we adopted a people-centric strategy against the pandemic. We have made the highest ever allocation to our annual healthcare budget,” he said.
Modi participated in the first global virtual summit on COVID-19 hosted by Biden on September 22 last year as well.
The second summit intends to galvanize new actions to address the continued challenges of the pandemic and build a stronger global health security architecture.
President Biden, Vice President Kamala Harris, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and South African President Cyril Ramaphosa were among the key leaders who addressed the summit.