India should collaborate with other countries to ramp up COVID vaccine capability: US medical adviser Dr Anthony Fauci

Dr Fauci, who is the Director of the US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), is also the chief medical advisor to President Joe Biden
Image for representation | Pic: Express
Image for representation | Pic: Express

Dr Anthony Fauci, the Biden administration's top medical adviser on Thursday said that it is imperative for India to collaborate with other countries, and companies to ramp up its vaccine production capability to vaccinate the country's huge population against COVID-19.

Calling India one of the best vaccine producers in the world, the leading American infectious disease expert said, "It's a very very large country with a population of about 1.4 billion people, you only have a couple of percentage of the people who are fully vaccinated and over about 10 per cent or so that have at least one dose so you've got to work out arrangements with other countries, other companies at the same time as ramping up your own capability of making vaccines because as we all know, India is one of the best if not the biggest vaccine producer in the world."

As several countries have announced support for India's response to a devastating second wave of coronavirus infections that has hit healthcare facilities across the country, Dr Fauci told ANI in an exclusive interview: "There was the immediate issue that needs to be addressed as taking care of the people that are already infected. Getting better supplies of oxygen, oxygen cylinders, oxygen generators, PPEs, therapies like Remdesivir and things like that; the things that the US has helped with, but then probably in the intermediate and long run, you've got to figure out a way how to get as many vaccinations, administered to the people of India as possible."

Noting that the B.1.617 mutant first detected in India has been found in over 40 countries including the US, he said, "in the ongoing crisis, the rich countries have a moral responsibility to assist those countries that don't have the capability of doing that, particularly the low and middle-income countries."

Dr Fauci, who is the Director of the US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), is also the chief medical advisor to President Joe Biden.

Regarding the use of vaccine passports in post-pandemic travel, the infectious diseases expert said that they are not going to be mandated by the US government, is likely not to go forward with them, but also noted that several airlines may say that they will not include persons who don't have vaccination verification.

Speaking on resuming travel with India, Fauci told ANI: "It is really going to depend on the level of infection right now. India has a very very high level of infection and that would mean that it would be very very difficult to resume travel there right now."

India is currently dealing with a second COVID-19 wave that has swept through the nation, straining the country's health infrastructure and overburdening frontline medical workers.

Several countries around the globe including the UK, Russia, and the US have extended support to India as it continues to struggle with the increase in its health infrastructure needs.

The Union Health Ministry on Thursday informed that 17.72 crore doses of the COVID-19 vaccine have been administered in India till now.

"Ten states account for 66.73 per cent of the cumulative doses given so far in the country. More than 34 lakh beneficiaries of age group 18-44 vaccinated under Phase-3 of Vaccination Drive," said Joint Secretary of Union Health Ministry Lav Agarwal.

The country had started the COVID-19 vaccination drive on January 16 with two vaccines -- Covishield (Oxford-AstraZeneca's vaccine manufactured by Serum Institute of India) and Covaxin (manufactured by Bharat Biotech Limited).

The vaccination drive for those between 18 and 45 years of age started in many parts of the country on May 1.

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