The Online International Webinar on the Strategy for Dealing with Pandemic for Equitable Access to Vaccines and Medicines against Covid-19 was organized jointly by Gautam Buddha University, Howard University USA, Association of Indian Universities (AIU), Haryana Higher Education Council, Kurukshetra University, Swadeshi Swawlamban Trust, etc. In Webinar, a galaxy of scholars from Academia, Medical Practitioners, Social Workers, Industries, etc., have deliberated upon the Webinar’s theme under the umbrella of Gautam Buddha University and Howard University, Association of Indian Universities, and other institutions from India and abroad. The issues highlighted by the eminent speakers are as under:
The Welcome Address delivered by Prof. Pankaj Mittal, Secretary-General, Association of Indian Universities. In her welcome address, Dr Mittal introduced the theme and stated that vaccine is the only hope to save humanity from this pandemic. We should unite to make an opinion in the world community about free access to vaccines to all.
Indian-American Congressman Raja Krishnamoorthi, United States, stated, “We have moved a bill in US House of Representatives to extend 20 billion dollars aid to Corona hit countries. Under the Nullifying Opportunities for Variants to Infect and Decimate (NOVID) Act, the Biden administration will provide 80 million extra doses of vaccines to developing and low-income countries. The US plans to vaccinate 60 per cent of the world population to create the desired herd immunity.”
Mr Ron Somers, former chairman of the US-India Business Council, said that India and the US have partnered to produce vaccines for HIV, Hepatitis B and C, and the first phase of Corona in Remdesivir voluntary licencing. Contrary to some misbeliefs, voluntary licencing will provide access to vaccines, and it will not undermine IPR and enable further innovation. Seven Indian vaccine manufacturers who can mass-produce vaccines received the technology to produce remdesivir, are competing price and selling it to treat patients in India and 120 other countries.”
Prof Marilyn Sepocle, the chairperson of the Women Ambassadors Foundation, believed that pharma companies have to play a significant role in producing the vaccine and should use their innovation as a gift to the humanity.
Prof. Pradeep Kapur, former ambassador and Amazon bestselling author, said, “No government in the world, how so ever powerful, can go alone by itself to deal with corona Pandemic. Leaders of the world who can communicate with the civil society will be better able to manage the corona crisis.”
Prof Marilyn Sepocle, Chairperson of Women Ambassadors Foundation, observed that like Merrie Curie and Charles R. Drew, who gave X-Ray and Plasma therapy to the world as gifts, the vaccine-making pharma companies should use it their innovation as a gift to the world.
Dr Pradeep Reddy, MD and a Pediatrics Specialist in Marion, Illinois, and member of the American Association of Physicians of Indian Origin, said that regulatory hurdles in the supply of International aid for Covid medicines and equipment must be addressed on a priority basis which is the only way to counter this pandemic created a medical emergency.
Dr Johnrose Austin Jayalal, National President of the Indian Medical Association, said that countries with 13 % of the world population had ordered 50 % vaccines. At this rate, 90 % of lower-income countries will be without vaccination until the end of 2021 or longer. However, India has walked the talk, and Bharat Biotech has given a vaccine manufacturing licence to three companies and is ready to provide the voluntary licence to any manufacturer in the world.
Mr R. Sundram, All India Convenor of Swadeshi Jagram Manch, said that this pandemic should unite the world to fight against an invisible enemy. Swadeshi Jagran Manch is playing a major role in bringing world leaders to a consensus for Patent free vaccines.
Mr Satish Kumar, All India Co-Organiser of Swadeshi Jagran Manch and a leading economic thinker and social worker, observed that 3 lakh people have already signed the petition and moved by our trust to make a corona vaccine free patent regime. 1500 Vice Chancellors, intellectuals, scientists, and economists have also signed another similar petition for Universal access to the vaccine.
Professor Narendra Rustagi, Director CGBS, Howard University, highlighted that we need to lift patent conditions for a limited period to save humanity. Reasonable profits can be shared with innovators to meet the cost of innovation.
Mr Saji Narayanan, former All India President of Bhartiya Mazdoor Sangh, observed that new terms like vaccine racism and vaccine apartheid are in currency these days, which is a cause of concern. He observed that new terms, like vaccine racism and vaccine apartheid are in currency these days, which is a cause of concern. We must decide what is more important, profit or humans.
Dr Yogender Malik, All India General Secretary National Medicos Organization, told seven vaccine manufacturers in India to make the Covid vaccine. India has walked the talk. Bharat Biotech has given a voluntary licence to Indian manufacturer and further willing to provide the licence to any manufacturer in the world.
Prof Bhagwati Prakash Sharma, Vice-Chancellor Gautam Buddha University, Greater Noida In his valedictory address Prof Sharma stated that the vast figures of Covid affected cases offer only a glimpse of the exorbitant human costs of the pandemic. COVID-19 has brought to the fore systemic inequalities at the national and international levels, aggravated pre-existing institutional weaknesses, including health, food and procurement systems, and highlighted a lack of access to quality, accessible and affordable health care for all. Socio-economic inequality has deepened even further. He further stressed that global humanity must unite to save humans from the Covid pandemic. The world cannot wait for the WTO to decide on relaxing laws for producing vaccines.
Prof, B.K. Kuthiala, Chairman, Haryana Higher Education Council, observed in his vote of thanks said that through such webinars, a discourse of consensus is emerging through the efforts of intellectuals, social organizations, policymakers, education administrators, scientists to provide free access to vaccines, medicines and medical equipment in this unprecedented situation of the pandemic.
Professor Som Nath Sachdeva, Vice-Chancellor Kurukshetra University, coordinated with the Webinar speakers and said that this seminar could give a message in the world community about Patent free vaccines and medicines to 70 % world population to fight the Corona Pandemic.
Outcomes of the Webinar
The scholars have stressed that everyone has access to quality essential medicines and vaccines without discrimination of caste, colour and creed. The strategic objectives further discussed related to updating and implementing national policies for medicines and vaccines; securing adequate and sustainable funding; ensuring the availability of medicines and vaccines at fair and affordable prices; establishing efficient supply systems; strengthening national regulatory authorities; ensuring appropriate use of medicines; promoting research and development as well as local production; and establishing a strong partnership framework. The strategy also proposes a set of priority actions which are: securing sufficient domestic public funding for essential medicines and vaccines; reviewing national vaccination schedules and essential medicines lists; reviewing medicine and vaccine procurement systems; promoting local production; establishing a regional pooled procurement/joint purchasing arrangement; sharing information on prices; and establishing partnerships and improving collaboration. The other highlights are:
• Consensus has evolved amongst the galaxy of intellectuals that the “Right to life” is a Universal Fundamental Right. So, a legal right of profiteering of some companies cannot prevail. Right to profiteering cannot supersede the fundamental “Right to Life.”
• All patentees should voluntarily transfer the technology to augment the supply of Covid-19 medicines and Vaccines.
• Pharma Companies should make Vaccines as Gifts to the World. World leaders must fight the pandemic collectively.
• Comply with international obligations of ensuring access to COVID-19 vaccines and treatment to all.
• Patent free Vaccines/ Voluntary Licencing will Provide Access to Vaccines for All
The Webinar successfully conducted in the presence of more than 600 participants.
(Dr Vivek Kumar Mishra is the Assistant Professor & Head of the Department, Political Science and International Relations, Gautam Buddha University, Greater Noida)