Pressure mounts on Biden admin to ship AstraZeneca vacc, other medical supplies to India


PTI, Apr 24, 2021, 9:13 AM IST

Washington DC: The Biden administration has come under intense pressure from various quarters, including the powerful US Chambers of Commerce, lawmakers and eminent Indian-Americans, to ship AstraZeneca and other COVID-19 vaccines along with several life-saving medical supplies to India, which is witnessing a deadly surge in COVID-19 cases.

“As the COVID-19 pandemic inflicts a heavy toll on countries around the globe, the US Chamber strongly encourages the administration to release the millions of AstraZeneca vaccine doses in storage – as well as other life-saving support – for shipment to India, Brazil, and other nations hard-hit by the pandemic,” said Myron Brilliante, executive vice president and head of international affairs at the US Chamber of Commerce.

He said these vaccine doses will not be needed in the United States, where it’s estimated that vaccine manufacturers will be able to produce enough doses by early June to inoculate every American.

This move would affirm US leadership, including in initiatives such as COVAX, and as we work with partners around the globe because no one is safe from the pandemic until we are all safe from it, Brilliante said.

The US Chambers issued the statement after Indian External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar sought global help in the fight against COVID-19.

“Will strive to ensure that our supply chains are as smooth as possible in a difficult global situation. The world must support India, as India helps the world,” he said in a tweet.

US State Department Deputy Spokesperson Jalina Porter told reporters that the United States continues to work closely with India to facilitate the movement of essential supplies and also address the bottlenecks of the supply chains.

“The COVID-19 situation in India is a global concern,” she said.

“We also continue to collaborate with our partners in India to battle this at the highest level. We know Secretary (of State, Tony) Blinken spoke to his counterpart on Tuesday and we remain deeply engaged with India at all levels as we work to combat this crisis of the pandemic together,” Porter said.

Congresswoman Rashida Talib tweeted that the COVID-19 crisis in India is a harsh reminder that the pandemic is not over until the whole world is safe.

President Biden “must support a patent waiver to ramp up global production now,” she said.

“As we look to our Indian friends battling this pandemic, we’ll also acknowledge the toll that it’s taking, not only on the people of India, but as well as all throughout South Asia and, quite frankly, all over the world,” Porter said.

The Washington Post in a lead editorial hoped that all of India can seize the moment and begin to reverse the course of this disaster.

“India is not a faraway problem. In pandemic time and distance, every place is nearby,” it said.

Major Democratic fundraiser for Biden’s presidential campaign Shekar Narasimhan urged the US President to speak to Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

“We have to do something in the face of a humanitarian disaster. Every friend I know in the US with family in India reports that relatives have died or been affected,” he said.

President “please speak to Prime Minister and see if we can lend 10M doses of AZ vaccine like tomorrow. We must help now!” he said.

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