U.S., India, Australia, Japan agree to send 1 billion vaccines across Asia by end-2022

FILE PHOTO: A woman holds a small bottle labelled with a "Coronavirus COVID-19 Vaccine" sticker in this illustration taken, October 30, 2020. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/File Photo/File Photo

NEW DELHI (Reuters) - Leaders of the United States, India, Australia and Japan agreed to pool financing, manufacturing and distribution capacity to send 1 billion coronavirus vaccines across Asia by the end of 2022, India's foreign secretary said on Friday.

The so-called "Quad" group of four nations want to expand global vaccinations and counter China's growing vaccination diplomacy in Southeast Asia and around the world. India is the world's biggest vaccine maker.

The collaboration was "most pressing and valuable", foreign secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla told a news conference in India's capital New Delhi after the four-way virtual summit.

"The four countries have agreed to a plan to pool their financial resources, manufacturing capabilities and capacities, and logistical strengths so as to ramp up the manufacturing and distribution of the COVID-19 vaccines in the Indo-Pacific region," he said.

"We believe this will speed up the process of post-pandemic recovery and enable families and businesses to put the COVID-19 crisis behind them."

India will use its manufacturing capacity to make U.S. vaccines, with financing coming from the U.S. International Development Finance Corporation and the Japan Bank for International Cooperation.

Australia will finance training and provide last-mile logistical support for the distribution of vaccines, he added, that will predominantly go to the Pacific Islands, Southeast Asia and countries in the Indian Ocean.

The initiative, however, may be hampered by U.S. export restrictions on critical raw materials for India's vaccine supply chain.

Shringla said the issue is a bilateral one with the United States that has been raised by India's ambassador in Washington.

"Consideration is being given to this very important point," he said, without elaborating.

The tie-up will not impact the production of vaccines for India's 1.4 billion people, Shringla added.

(Reporting by Alasdair Pal in New Delhi and Euan Rocha in Mumbai; Editing by Hugh Lawson)

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