WHO vax approval process needs to be reformed: Modi

NEW DELHI: Amid an ongoing dispute between India and the World Health Organization, PM Narendra Modi on Thursday called for reforming the UN agency and streamlining its approval process for vaccines and therapeutics to ensure stability of global supply chain.
“WHO must be reformed and strengthened to build a more resilient global health security architecture. We also call for streamlining WHO’s approval process for vaccine and therapeutics to keep supply chain stable and quite predictable,” Modi said while addressing the second Global Virtual Covid Summit hosted by US President Joe Biden.
PM’s comments assume significance in the wake of regulatory scrutiny and delays in emergency use listing (EUL) faced by Bharat Biotech’s locally developed Covaxin even as crores of doses were administered safely within the country. The delay in WHO’s EUL to Covaxin not only posed a threat to the vaccine’s global acceptability as a safe and efficacious jab but also resulted in difficulties for those vaccinated with Covaxin to travel abroad. Recently, in April, WHO again suspended supply of Covaxin, citing deficiencies in compliance to good manufacturing practices (GMP) norms.
Another locally developed vaccine – Corbevax from Biological E – which is being administered to youngsters of 12-15 years age in India – is also awaiting EUL nod from WHO since February.
More recently, India and WHO got into a row over the latter’s estimate of 47 lakh excess deaths in the country as a result of Covid in 2020 and 2021 – an assessment that has been contested by the government here citing flawed methodology, inaccurate sourcing of data, inconsistencies in criteria and use of assumption by WHO for projections. Extending support to undertake the measures for WHO reform, Modi said: “As a responsible member of the global community, India is ready to play a key role in these efforts.”
Positioning India as a major global supplier of Covid vaccines, Modi said the country has four jabs approved by WHO and capacity to manufacture 5 billion doses this year. He also highlighted the need for more flexibility in WTO’s rules, particularly related to TRIPS ((Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights). India has been pressing for a TRIPS waiver to ensure scaling up of the vaccine production for equitable and global access.