Biocon Executive Chairperson Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw recently spoke at Carnegie India’s Global Technology Summit, which convened leading policymakers, entrepreneurs, industry leaders, academics and technologists from around the world to deliberate over five days on an overarching theme of ‘Geopolitics of Technology’.
On Dec. 18, 2020, the last day of the summit, Ms Mazumdar-Shaw joined Soumya Swaminathan, Chief Scientist, World Health Organization; Adar Poonawalla, CEO, Serum Institute of India; and John Nkengasong, director of the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC) for a panel discussion titled ‘The People Need to Know: The Challenges of Developing a COVID-19 Vaccine.’
The eminent panel of speakers went into the ongoing ethical debate over how to fairly and equitably distribute COVID-19 vaccines, as well as, the need to balance public trust with the commercial interests of vaccines makers.
Ms Mazumdar-Shaw started off the discussion saying, ”Extraordinary times call for extraordinary measures” and while the world has responded to the COVID-19 crisis by developing vaccines at “warp speed,” people need to know the risks, the benefits and the challenges of deploying such vaccines for the world population.
The discussion threw up several interesting insights and suggestions.
Mr Poonawalla urged the government to intervene and protect vaccine manufacturers against frivolous complaints regarding the vaccine.
“The government should indemnify vaccine manufacturers against all lawsuits. In fact, COVAX and other countries are already talking about it,” he said in reply to a question by Ms Mazumdar-Shaw on how the government should handle the concerns related to the side-effects of vaccines and misinformation.
Dr Swaminathan said, “Countries must put in place mechanisms for monitoring the safety of the vaccines but also for monitoring the effectiveness of these vaccines.”
Speaking on the need for a speedy distribution of vaccines across the world to win the war against the COVID-19 pandemic, Dr Nkengasong said: “From where I see, we can only be on the right side of history by doing the difficult thing which is to make sure that we all have equitable access to the vaccines.”
“We live in ONE World and we are ONE People. The COVID-19 pandemic has taught us that we are more connected than we thought, we are more vulnerable than we thought and we have more inequities than we thought. So, the developed world must look at this from the point of view of collective security,” Dr Nkengasong said.
Ms Mazumdar-Shaw concluded the session saying, “Even with vaccines becoming available, we can’t let our guard down. We have to ensure that we keep ourselves protected. We must understand that this is not an easy pandemic to handle and we have to look at it in a way that is calibrated and very responsible.”
To listen more of this interesting panel discussion, please click here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r4P-z7kILY0&feature=youtu.be