India's COVID-19 crisis: S Jaishankar and Antonio Guterres discuss ramping up global vaccine supply and production

United Nations: External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar on Tuesday held a comprehensive in-person meeting with UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres and discussed the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic and underlined the importance of finding an "urgent and effective" global vaccine solution to fight the deadly disease.

In his first face-to-face interaction with the UN chief since India entered the UN Security Council as a non-permanent member in January this year, Jaishankar also deliberated on regional challenges in India's neighbourhood and said that the countering terrorism and radicalisation remain priorities for the entire region.

"A warm and comprehensive meeting with UN Secretary General @antonioguterres. Discussed the COVID-19 challenge, underlining the importance of finding urgent and effective global vaccine solutions. Critical to ramp up the vaccine supply chain to ensure greater production and fairer distribution," Jaishankar tweeted shortly after the meeting that lasted almost an hour.

Jaishankar's meeting with Guterres comes at a time when India is reeling under an unprecedented second wave of COVID-19 and a widening gap between the supply of vaccines and requirement.

Currently, the country is using two 'made-in India' jabs - Covishield and Covaxin - to inoculate its billion-plus population and has administered 20 crore doses since launching the world's largest vaccination drive in mid-January.

A third vaccine, Russian-made Sputnik V, has been approved by the government and is being used on a smaller scale at present.

According to a statement issued by the Permanent Mission of India to the UN, the Secretary General expressed solidarity with the Indian government in their efforts against the recent wave of COVID-19 pandemic.

Jaishankar appreciated the efforts of the Secretary General to facilitate Vaccines for All'.

He and Guterres discussed the need to ramp up global vaccine production through expanded supply chains. "This was imperative to ensure fairer distribution of vaccines globally in the coming days. The proposal by India and South Africa for TRIPS waiver of vaccine patents can also contribute to greater production and more equity," the statement said.