Foreign Minister: India Cannot Vaccinate Indians over Foreigners Due to ‘Global Supply Chains’

India's Minister of Foreign Affairs Subrahmanyam Jaishankar gestures as he answers questions during an interview in Brussels on February 17, 2020. (Photo by Kenzo TRIBOUILLARD / AFP) (Photo by KENZO TRIBOUILLARD/AFP via Getty Images)

Indian Foreign Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar said Tuesday that India must continue exporting coronavirus vaccines despite mounting infections and vaccine shortages at home because of the need to maintain “global supply chains.”

He used the same rationale to urge other nations to “keep the raw materials flowing for vaccines to be made in India.”

“The fact is there are global supply chains. Very few things are made exclusively in one geography. Very few societies can say we are autonomous of our reliance on others,” Jaishankar said.

The Times of India reported Jaishankar discussed the supply of raw materials for vaccine production with U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Monday. 

Indian government sources told Reuters on Monday that India hopes the United States will soon lift its ban on the export of raw materials, a prohibition applied under the Defense Production Act last month to give American pharmaceutical companies priority access to domestically produced materials.

In his comments Monday, Jaishankar stressed that India cannot “go around the world and tell people, ‘Guys, keep your supply chain flowing toward me’” while also refusing to export completed products from the Serum Institute of India (SII), the world’s largest vaccine manufacturer. The World Health Organization (W.H.O.) has urged all parties to lift export bans on raw materials and vaccines.

SII’s chief executive officer Adar Poonawalla personally appealed to U.S. President Joe Biden to lift America’s export ban last week:

Poonawalla also urged the Indian government to make a reciprocal commitment that it will not hoard SII’s vaccine products for the Indian population, even as cases mount from a second wave of Chinese coronavirus.

Tuesday was counted as India’s worst day since the pandemic began, with 1,761 fatalities. Lockdowns are expanding rapidly, hospitals are struggling to deal with the influx of patients, and other countries are advising against travel to India. 

There will certainly be immense pressure against the government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi to refrain from exporting vaccines the huge Indian population desperately needs, especially since Modi’s critics blame the slow pace of vaccinations for the severity of the new coronavirus wave. India imposed temporary restrictions on vaccine exports last month when infections surged, and there will probably be calls to do so again.


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