NEW DELHI: We are now faced with the stiff challenge of ensuring swift access to affordable vaccines and medicines for prevention of the pandemic and treatment of COVID patients, besides adequate provision of diagnostic kits, medical masks, personal protective equipment, oxygen concentrators/cylinders and ventilators.
The need of the hour is to encourage, support and provide incentives for rapid ramping up of production capacities, through using all possible means or routes available to us.
FICCI is encouraged by the US support for the ‘TRIPS waiver’ proposal, first advocated by India and South Africa as one vital tool to address the concerns on availability of COVID-19 vaccines. We are confident, if accepted in the WTO and implemented, the temporary waiver would go a long way to enable scaling up of manufacturing and ensuring timely availability of affordable COVID-19 vaccines and essential medical products.
While the Indian Government is currently working towards the multilateral solution, there are other proposals e.g. invoking ‘Compulsory Licenses’ to alleviate the shortage of vaccines.
FICCI recognizes that the country has the right to invoke Compulsory Licenses under relevant Sections of the Patents Act. However, it may not lead to ‘enhancing’ the manufacturing capacity in the near future. This is due to the fact that lack of availability of essential raw materials and inputs poses significant constraint to the quick expansion of production capacity of the COVID vaccines. Further, several regulatory and safety issues will have to be addressed, and this may take some time. Thus, additional permissions through compulsory licenses will not automatically lead to any immediate increase in manufacturing of vaccines.