India has a key role in the fight to end all pandemics - Hindustan Times
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India has a key role in the fight to end all pandemics

ByRichard Hatchett
Mar 11, 2023 12:16 PM IST

India must cement its position as a global health leader and a champion of equity and lead the world in securing its future against pandemic threats.

As the world emerges into a new post-pandemic era, it is tempting to fool ourselves that the threat of epidemics and pandemics has gone away. In 2023, Covid-19’s impact will continue to put pressure on health care systems and claim more lives — albeit far fewer than what would have been the case without vaccines. But Covid-19 is not the only threat; there are many more viruses with pandemic potential on the horizon.

At the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI), we are developing vaccines to fight a broad range of viruses with epidemic potential (Getty Images/iStockphoto) PREMIUM
At the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI), we are developing vaccines to fight a broad range of viruses with epidemic potential (Getty Images/iStockphoto)

The climate crisis, global travel and urbanisation are fuelling an increase in the spread of infectious disease outbreaks. Alongside Covid-19, the world has recently contended with a global surge of Mpox and outbreaks of Sudan ebolavirus in Uganda and Nipah virus in Bangladesh.

At the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI), we are developing vaccines to fight a broad range of viruses with epidemic potential, including advanced vaccine candidates against Chikungunya and Nipah, which are an ever-present threat to India and its neighbours.

CEPI is also pioneering global efforts to get ahead of future pandemic threats that we don’t yet know about: A phenomenon known as “Disease X”. As we have seen throughout the Covid-19 crisis, India has a critical global role to play in meeting this challenge. Through its G20 presidency and leveraging the country’s world-class capability and expertise in R&D and manufacturing, India can help shape the global agenda on pandemic preparedness.

India has also long played a significant role in vaccine R&D and manufacturing, producing 60% of all vaccines supplied globally. The country has a proud history of ensuring fair access to these life-saving measures — at home and abroad — through initiatives like CoWIN and Vaccine Maitri.

More recently, Indian ingenuity helped deliver multiple vaccines at unprecedented speed and scale, including the CEPI-backed Covishield, Covovax and Corbevax.

While we are desperate for Covid-19 to be over, it would be foolhardy to dismiss the threat it still poses. That’s why CEPI is investing in new vaccines that could future-proof the world against new Covid-19 variants and even other coronaviruses. Crucial partners in this work include India’s Translational Health Science and Technology Institute, Panacea Biotec and Bharat Biotech.

India is one of the founders of CEPI, participating in our launch in 2017 and embracing our vision of developing vaccines against emerging infectious diseases and making them accessible. Six years on, CEPI has embarked on a mission with the potential to end the threat of pandemics by compressing the time it takes to develop new vaccines against pathogens with pandemic potential to 100 days. Achieving this ambitious goal must be a shared global endeavour. That’s why I’m thrilled that India’s G20 presidency has prioritised both pandemic preparedness and equitable access to medical tools, and I am honoured that CEPI has been invited to contribute to this.

India must cement its position as a global health leader and a champion of equity and lead the world in securing its future against pandemic threats. India’s commitment to advance the 100 Days Mission as part of its One Earth, One Family, One Future, G20 agenda is an important step in the right direction. I look forward to strengthening CEPI’s ties with India and its world-leading life sciences institutions as we work together to make pandemics a thing of the past.

Dr Richard Hatchett is CEO of CEPI

The views expressed are personal

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