Foreign Secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla, on the delay in the grant of Emergency Use Listing (EUL) for Bharat Biotech’s Covaxin by the World Health Organisation, said India is hopeful of getting approval soon. The foreign secretary said the regulatory body concerned of the WHO put some questions to Bharat Biotech and approval for the vaccine should come if the queries are responded to effectively.

To a question on delay in WHO’s nod for Covaxin, he said the regulatory committee of the global body in its meeting on October 26 asked certain questions to Bharat Biotech and the manufacturer will soon provide its response.

“It is a technical and regulatory group. The emergency authorisation by the WHO is based on technical considerations and we are carefully following up the discussions at the WHO. We are hopeful that Covaxin will get approval soon," Shringla said.

India has proposed a mutually acceptable COVID-19 vaccine certification framework to its partner countries to ensure a simplified international travel regime and several of them have already agreed to it, Shringla said on Thursday. The mechanism is based on reciprocal recognition of the integrity of the vaccine certification process by the partner countries and it will help in normalising international travel, he said at a media briefing.

“India has proposed to its partner countries, primarily countries that Indian citizens normally travel to, that we should have a mutual (mechanism) that you recognise our vaccine certification and we will mutually recognise your vaccine certification," Shringla said.

“Now the advantage of this is that as we keep adding new vaccines to our stock of national vaccines, you do not need to go to every country to try and get recognition. You recognise the certification that we issue, you recognise its integrity and we will give you mutual treatment," he said.

The foreign secretary said a number of countries have already agreed to the proposal. He, however, did not name the countries. “So we have achieved some reciprocal arrangements with a number of countries. We are working with all of our partner countries to have similar arrangements. It will simplify international travel, it will normalise international travel," Shringla said.

He said such a mechanism could be helpful in the G20’s objective of recovering from the economic impact of the Coronavirus pandemic. “Business travellers, tourists which contribute to the recovery of economies will be greatly benefitted from this simplified international travel regime that we are proposing and we have taken it up with the G20, we have taken it up bilaterally, we have taken it up in plurilateral forums," he said.

“We will continue to advocate this as a means of better and easier access to citizens travelling all over the world," Shringla added.

On India proposing waivers by the World Trade Organisation on Covid-related medical products including vaccines, he said India is for ensuring affordable and equitable access to COVID-19 disease control tools.

“We have advocated for technology transfer and diversification of supply chain and production hubs to ensure affordable and equitable access to COVID-19 disease control tools," he said.

“I am happy to share that G20 has recognised extensive vaccination as a global public good and I think that is where discussions in the G20 will be relevant," he added.