The US is looking at joint production of Johnson and Johnson’s Covid vaccine in India and ways to help manufacturers like Serum Institute of India (SII) to boost production, Daniel B Smith, Charge d’Affaires of the US Embassy, said Tuesday.
Smith also said that the efficacy of AstraZeneca’s vaccine, manufactured at a production facility in Baltimore, is not clear and the US Food and Drug Administration has not yet certified those doses.
Last month, the White House said the US plans to share 60 million doses of AstraZeneca’s vaccine globally as soon as they become available, and India had expected a significant chunk of the stockpile.
Speaking at a media briefing, Smith said the US was concerned over the Covid situation in India, “not simply because of the humanitarian catastrophe but the fact that it has global implications”.
“I know that there are a number of doses of the AstraZenecavaccine (with the US). They were manufactured…at a plant outside of Baltimore but there were problems with this plant. So far the Food and Drug Administration of the US has not certified that these vaccines are available for anyone’s use, for export or not,” Smith said in response to a question.
Smith, who recently served as acting Secretary of State and acting Deputy Secretary of State, was appointed as Charge d’Affaires recently.
To a question on joint production of vaccines, Smith said the setting up of joint production takes time and that the US was looking at how it can invest in boosting production.
“Our development finance cooperation is looking at how we can invest so that we can help produce Johnson and Johnson’s vaccine here in India. And I know that there are some private sector production talks that are underway from pharmaceutical companies to pharmaceutical companies,” he said.
“We are determined to do all we can as a government to encourage licensing and encourage more production and if there is a need for capital, we will look at what we can provide and whether we can provide assistance,” he said.
Smith said India’s role in the production of Covid vaccines is critical. “I think we are watching carefully the production levels at the SII and elsewhere. We’ve been in close touch with the SII to try to determine what raw materials we could provide, and assistance that we can provide to help boost production,” he said.
The US has been in touch with multiple vaccine manufacturers in the country.
“We want to do all we can to boost that production because I have heard from some of my colleagues in neighbouring countries, from the government of Bhutan, about their concern that India, of course, is having to divert a lot of its existing production to its own domestic needs, which is absolutely understandable,” he said.
“But in the same token, it means a lot of these countries are at risk that they will not get a second round of this vaccination. So we are looking to partner with other countries, we are looking at what we can do both to boost the production here in India but also to make up for whatever shortfall exists as a result of India’s own dire need for these vaccines,” he said.
As India reeled from a devastating second wave of infections, the US deployed six planeloads of life-saving supplies in support of the fight against the pandemic. The US government’s assistance to India is estimated at USD 100 million.
Smith said there was a need to work closely to address issues relating to the supply chain.
“A lot of the companies that manufacture key components and raw materials are located in the US, but many are not. So we are going to have to work together as a global community to address some of these supply chain issues and challenges that we face as we go forward,” he said.