India, UK vow to create new coronavirus vaccine hub

New Delhi, Dec 16 (efe-epa).- India and the United Kingdom will join forces to create a new coronavirus vaccine hub, UK Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said on Wednesday, promising a new partnership for “equitable access” to the vaccine across the world.

Raab, who arrived in India on Monday for a four-day visit, met Prime Minister Narendra Modi to discuss the two countries working together “as a force for good and launching the pioneering new vaccines hub,” according to a statement by the UK Foreign Affairs office.

The foreign secretary also visited a Delhi health clinic where a new coronavirus vaccine developed by Oxford and AstraZeneca would be administered.

The Serum Institute of India is poised to make over a billion doses of the vaccine that can be stored at normal fridge temperatures, making it easier and cheaper to produce and keep, as well as distribute around the world.

“This Serum Institute and Oxford University partnership demonstrates the UK-India relationship at its best. A vaccine developed in the UK and made in India, drawing our brightest minds together to save lives as a global force for good,” Raab said.

“A global pandemic requires a global solution. Scientific cooperation has made breakthroughs on coronavirus vaccines at record-breaking pace and the UK-India vaccine hub will now build on these innovations, to bring this crisis to an end and protect us all against future pandemics.”

Millions of the doses made by the Serum Institute will be distributed to the world’s poorest people via the global Covax initiative, in partnership with the World Health Organization (WHO) and Gavi, the vaccine alliance.

On his part, Modi conveyed his keenness to receive British Prime Minister Boris Johnson in New Delhi next month, on the occasion of India’s 72nd Republic Day celebrations.

The UK has promised equitable access to any coronavirus vaccine for those who need it and has committed up to £619 million to Covax to secure both the UK’s access to coronavirus vaccines and distribute Covid-19 vaccines across the world.

India supplies more than 50 percent of the vaccines across the world and 25 percent of the generic drugs of the NHS.

Closer UK-India cooperation on medicines and vaccines approvals would ensure speedy access for the UK to Indian-produced pharmaceuticals and help safeguard future supplies to the NHS, the foreign affairs ministry statement said.

“The new hub will enable British and Indian experts to share knowledge on clinical trials and regulatory approvals and get vaccines to people who need them most in a safe, secure and energy-efficient way.”

The two countries announced a new agreement between India’s Central Drugs Standard Control Organisation and the UK Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) agreeing to more frequent discussions on vaccine and pharmaceutical regulations, improving standards, and sharing information to control against the trade of unlicensed products.

They also announced a new partnership to help UK and Indian scientists unlock the power of data, including the data within genes, to deliver better diagnostics and enhanced life-saving treatments for cancer, diabetes, maternal health challenges, and rare diseases.

During his meeting with Modi, the foreign secretary signaled his ambition for a closer UK-India relationship as part of a wider focus “on our partnerships in the Indo-Pacific.”

Modi stressed the importance of the bilateral partnership in the post-Covid world and called for a “360-degree roadmap to tap the full potential” of ties between the two countries. EFE-EPA


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