Washington: The Biden administration has come under criticism from several quarters, including from members and supporters of the Democratic party, for not releasing surplus COVID-19 vaccines to India when the country is experiencing its worst-ever public health crisis.
Indian-American Congressman Raja Krishnamoorthi urged the Biden administration to release doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine to countries currently experiencing the deadly surge in COVID-19 cases.
“When people in India and elsewhere desperately need help, we can’t let vaccines sit in a warehouse, we need to get them where they’ll save lives,” he said.
“We are currently sitting on close to 40 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine in the US stockpile, a stockpile which we’re not using and which we’ve already opened to combat COVID-19 in Mexico and Canada,” he said.
To curb the spread of this virus internationally and to protect public health and our international economy, the US needs to get these vaccines out the door now, he said.
“I respectfully but strongly call on the Biden administration to release millions of AstraZeneca vaccine doses to countries hardest hit by the spread of COVID-19, including India, Argentina, and potentially others,” Krishnamoorthi said.
A record single-day rise of 3,46,786 coronavirus cases on Saturday pushed India’s tally of infection to 1,66,10,481, while active cases crossed the 25-lakh mark.
The Biden administration is losing any goodwill it gained in the last few months, Tanvi Madan from the Brookings Institute said in a tweet.
“Indian public has now seen tweets from Pakistani PM & Iranian FM; had offers of help from Russia & China — i.e. even a country it has had hostilities with. It has not heard from any senior US officials. The Biden administration is losing any goodwill it gained in the last few months,” Madan said.
Indian-American Sonal Shah, who was part of the Biden campaign, tweeted that she has lost five family members in India.
“The COVID crisis in India is real and it will become a humanitarian crisis if it isn’t already one. Our US government needs to do something. This will quickly spread to other countries,” Shah said.
Jeff M Smith from The Heritage Foundation think-tank said that it is well worth remembering that when New York and other parts of America were facing a public health emergency in late 2020, the Indian government removed an export ban on the active pharmaceutical ingredient hydroxychloroquine, despite stark criticism at home.
“The number of surplus vaccines available—after every American has been vaccinated—is estimated to be around 70 million…US has adequate supplies and more. It is now time to relax the prioritisation measures and products that fall under the purview of the DPA (Defence Production Act),” Smith said.
President Joe Biden and his predecessor Donald Trump had invoked the war-time DPA that leaves US companies with no option but to give priority to the production of COVID-19 vaccines and Personal Protective Equipment (PPEs) for domestic production to combat the deadly pandemic in America, the worst-hit nation.
“India’s coronavirus surge could collapse its health system. The US can help,” wrote Ashish K Jha, a top American public health expert in an op-ed in The Washington Post.
“It is time for the United States, the world’s oldest democracy, to come to the aid of this key global ally,” he wrote in an op-ed.
The Biden administration must clear the path of sending our excess supply of vaccines to India and other countries in crisis, he said.
“Only the United States has the capacity, resources and technical know-how to bend the curve of India’s catastrophic second wave of disease,” he said.
“The faster we assist our ally, the more lives will be saved. One democracy coming to the aid of another in this time of crisis is exactly what the world needs now. It will be good for India. It will be good for the United States. And it will make the world a safer place,” Jha wrote.
Gita Gopinath, chief economist of the International Monetary Fund, said that she is deeply disturbed by the exploding health crisis in India.
“The situation in India is desperate,” said Dr Audrey Truschke, Associate Professor of South Asian history at Rutgers University.
“The US should release excess supplies to help meet this humanitarian crisis….We should help ease human suffering,” she said.
“Biden ran his whole campaign on ‘restoring the soul of our nation’ and now he can either actively help the crisis in India or stick with Big Pharma. You might think all that soul talk would weigh on him,” tweeted Ryan Grim, DC bureau chief at The Intercept.
“Pretty sure there was an ‘America First’ candidate on the ballot and he did not win,” he said.