Coronavirus | India, U.S. to collaborate on COVID-19 vaccine trials, say U.S. health offic...

Coronavirus | India, U.S. to collaborate on COVID-19 vaccine trials, say U.S. health officials

Focus is on safe, cost-effective vaccines against a range of infectious diseases: U.S. health officials

India and the U.S. plan to work together on vaccine research and testing for COVID-19, U.S. health officials said here on Tuesday, listing a number of other ways in which the two countries are working together.

“U.S. and Indian scientists have been collaborating on key research questions fostering the development and testing of safe, cost-effective vaccines against a range of infectious diseases that could save innumerable lives in India, the United States, and around the world,” U.S. Embassy Health and Human Services (HHS) attaché Preetha Rajaraman told presspersons at a briefing in Delhi.

“In the context of the current pandemic, partners under the Vaccine Action Programme (VAP) are planning to collaborate on the development and testing of vaccine candidates and diagnostics for COVID-19,” she added.

The VAP, or the Indo-U.S. Vaccine Action Program, is a 33-year collaboration between the U.S. National Institutes of Health, the Indian Department of Biotechnology (DBT) and the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) along with other partners.

Meanwhile, 50 ventilators from the United States are expected in India shortly, the embassy said, as part of the donation of 200 ventilators announced by President Donald Trump last week.

‘Part of funding’

The ventilators, which will be paid for by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), are part of $5.9 million in funding announced to date for India, said USAID Acting Director Ramona El Hamzaoui, briefing journalists about the work of the agency, adding that the amount was a part of a worldwide commitment of $900 million made available for combating the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The United States government is providing access to high-quality, American-made ventilators to designated countries as soon as the domestic supply chain and vendors are able to produce and deliver orders,” Ms. Hamzaoui said.

She added that USAID would facilitate a discussion between the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare and the manufacturer “to ensure that the local context and needs are considered before placing the final purchase order.”

CDC funds

The U.S. Centres for Disease Control and Prevention said it would separately fund the Government of India $3.6 million to support “prevention, preparedness, and response activities in India, in collaboration with and concurrence from the GoI.”

To a specific question on whether its disbursement of the funding could be delayed by the Ministry of Home Affairs’ decision to place CDC on a watchlist in December 2019, CDC India’s Meghna Desai said they had not received any “official communication” in the matter, but were aware of government “concerns” over the funding of a study on the Nipah virus at a non-authorised laboratory in India.

However, for the coronavirus grant, the CDC clarified that it will work with agencies approved by the government only, which would not run into issues requiring “prior permission”, in the manner direct funds to laboratories and research centres would.

“The selection of partners will be based on the scope of work and in concurrence with relevant line ministries of the GoI. Funding will not go to one single agency,” Ms. Desai said in response to a question from The Hindu.

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