Favour tech transfer for vaccines, says Nasscom

Given the extraordinary situation due to the global pandemic, the National Association of Software and Service Companies (Nasscom) is in favour of transfer of technology for COVID-19 vaccines, its newly elected chairperson Rekha M. Menon said.

“We strongly support IPR [Intellectual Property Rights] protection. Yet, considering this extraordinary situation where the world needs to come together to fight a global pandemic, and India’s position as the largest manufacturer of vaccines, we welcome the transfer of technology,” said Ms. Menon, the first woman to chair the industry group.

With the pandemic still raging in India and other parts of the world there is a debate over whether COVID-19 vaccines should be exempted from IPR protections to address shortages and disparity-related issues.

‘Humanitarian crisis’

On the impact of the COVID-19 second wave on the information technology (IT) sector, Ms. Menon said while the first wave of the pandemic had been more of a business continuity planning crisis for companies, the second wave had turned out to be a humanitarian crisis for the industry.

“We recently conducted a survey of technology companies, where most organisations reported a 2-3% impact on workforce, but they also reported zero to minimal productivity and business impact with the industry continuing to witness a robust deal and demand pipeline,” she said.

Ms. Menon, who is also senior MD and chairperson, Accenture in India, said scale was one of the biggest challenges in the vaccination efforts for India, and a public-private partnership was needed to overcome it.

“We had asked the government to allow the import of WHO-approved vaccines and have also offered to work with manufacturers directly to support them with supply chain issues. We are also collaborating with other associations such as CII to procure WHO-recognised vaccines,” she said, adding that the industry was committed to getting its more than 40 lakh employees and their families vaccinated.

The IT association, which recently wrote to Prime Minister Narendra Modi urging a temporary relaxation of the Foreign Contribution Regulation Act (FCRA) norms, has also sought a comprehensive data utilisation strategy with a focus on quality, access, responsible usage, and security.

“We also recommend [that] States learn from proven models and set up processes and resources to monitor data around vaccination, supply of emergency medical equipment, hospital beds and testing, among others, to ensure proactive planning for future calamities,” the Nasscom chairperson said.

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