EAM S Jaishankar to visit US to smoothen vaccine supply | India News

EAM S Jaishankar to visit US to smoothen vaccine supply | India News
WASHINGTON: External affairs minister S Jaishankar will embark on a five-day visit to the United States next week in an outreach aimed primarily at facilitating procurement of Covid-19 vaccines and smoothening supply chain wrinkles that has significantly slowed down the vaccination drive in India.
The minister is expected to meet UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres in New York and hold discussions with his counterpart Secretary of State Antony Blinken in Washington DC, India’s foreign office said in a statement, adding he will also be meeting cabinet members and senior officials of the Biden administration dealing with the bilateral relationship.
He is also expected to have two interactions with business forums on economic & Covid-related cooperation between India and the US, amid a degree of frustration on both sides — despite good intentions — over issues such as raw material supply and intellectual property matters that have put a crimp on India’s desire to rapidly vaccinate its people.
Although India’s ambassador to the US Taranjit Sandhu has been holding almost daily meetings with CEOs of pharma majors, including engagements over the past 48 hours with Moderna CEO Stephane Bance and Johnson & Johnson chairman and CEO Alex Gorsky, there has not been a breakthrough on legacy IP issues that can address New Delhi’s urgent need for more than a billion vaccines — for more than the modest millions that are currently being channeled.
Breaking through the impasse that involves pharma majors wanting to retain their proprietary knowledge and profitability requires high level government intervention, a need that is bringing the external affairs minister to Washington DC at a time such visits are rare.
The White House said earlier this week that the United States to date has provided over $500 million in Covid relief to India, including contributions from the US federal and state governments, American companies, organizations and private citizens, but its overarching initiative to effect patent waivers has not found across the board support in Congress.
In a May 20th letter, more than 100 Republican lawmakers expressed concern over the Biden administration’s support for waiving some intellectual property (IP) protections related to the Covid-19 vaccines, saying it would serve as a “massive giveaway” to countries like China, Russia and India.
“It is imperative that we lead the world in increasing global access to Covid-19 vaccines while also affirming our nation’s long and storied history of protecting IP to spur innovation. American jobs, innovation, and the health and welfare of the entire world are at stake,” they said in the letter, implicitly endorsing the Big Pharma position that they would rather ramp up supply of vaccines than give away the store.
But lawmakers on the left have repeatedly exposed Big Pharma claims about plowing money into innovation — without managing to shame then — by illustrating that they spend far more money on marketing and executive compensation than into R&D.

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