India opposes Covid ‘jab passport’ plan at G7 meet

| | New Delhi
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India opposes Covid ‘jab passport’ plan at G7 meet

Sunday, 06 June 2021 | PNS | New Delhi

Terms it discriminatory given just 3% Indians fully vaccinated

India strongly opposed the adoption of coronavirus “vaccine passport” at the G7 meeting of Health Ministers of participating countries on Friday, saying such an initiative was “disadvantageous to developing nations” and  could prove to be “hugely discriminatory” given that a little over 3 per cent of its population has been fully vaccinated so far.

Union Health Minister Dr Harsh Vardhan, addressing the meeting of his counterparts from seven wealthy nations — to which India was invited this year as a guest — raised concerns about the availability of vaccines and low rates of inoculation in developing nations.

“At this stage of [the] pandemic, it is pertinent to also discuss India’s concern over the idea of a vaccine passport. Considering the fact of lower levels of vaccination in developing countries in contrast to the developed countries and still unaddressed issues related to equitable and affordable access, supply and distribution of safe and effective vaccines, India would propose that implementation of vaccine passports will be hugely discriminatory and disadvantageous to the developing countries,” he said.

“India would suggest that the same should be implemented duly taking into consideration emerging evidence on [the] efficacy of vaccines and under the overarching coordination of WHO duly attending to the anomaly of access and affordability as it exists today,” Dr Vardhan further said.

Though India has plans to inoculate its entire population by December-end under its nationwide vaccination programme launched from January 16, 2021, it may look impossible in the current scenario in view of acute shortage of vaccines.

Moreover, its indigenous vaccine, Covaxin, manufactured by Bharat Biotech and offered under the national programme is yet to get a World Health Organisation (WHO) approval.

If countries only recognise WHO-approved vaccines, that again could create problems for Indians who have taken the Covaxin jabs.

Several countries, including the US and the UK, have talked about vaccine passports for letting their citizens travel abroad or visitors from other countries to come in. The European Union has also been working to introduce a vaccine travel document for tourists.

The G7 health ministers meeting in Britain agreed on Friday to step up coordination against future pandemics and other threats, but made no new commitments to speed up vaccine deliveries to less developed countries.

But facing growing calls to ensure a fairer global distribution of vaccine doses, the G7 health gathering failed to break new ground, reiterating previous commitments to share doses “as soon as possible”.

Poorer countries, which do not have enough stocks for comprehensive inoculation programmes, have lagged in their jabs’ drives as they wait for stocks.

G7 countries are already committed to supporting the Covax global vaccine sharing programme, but the World Health Organisation and others have warned it is short of around 200 million doses in the short term.

During his address, Dr Vardhan also expressed support for reforms at the WHO as well as a proposed pandemic treaty to ensure better preparedness in future. India also called for heightened global collaborations at G7 Health Ministers meeting.

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