It will also make available supplies of therapeutics, test kits, ventilators and PPE. Move comes after public pressure.
The United States said Sunday that it will immediately make available to India critical “raw material urgently required” for manufacturing the Covishield vaccine. A press release issued by the National Security Council said, additionally, it will also make available “supplies of therapeutics, rapid diagnostic test kits, ventilators, and Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)” and “is pursuing options to provide oxygen generation and related supplies on an urgent basis.”
“Just as India sent assistance to the United States as our hospitals were strained early in the pandemic, we are determined to help India in its time of need,” President Biden tweeted Sunday.
Just as India sent assistance to the United States as our hospitals were strained early in the pandemic, we are determined to help India in its time of need. https://t.co/SzWRj0eP3y
— President Biden (@POTUS) April 25, 2021
Minutes later Vice President Kamala Harris also tweeted: “The U.S. is working closely with the Indian government to rapidly deploy additional support and supplies during an alarming COVID-19 outbreak. As we provide assistance, we pray for the people of India—including its courageous healthcare workers.”
The aid announcement came after a phone conversation between the National Security Advisors of the two nations, Jake Sullivan of the United States and his counterpart Ajit Doval.
In the past few days, the Biden administration has been facing intense pressure to help India, which has been devastated by a deadly second wave of covid-19. The country recorded nearly 350,000 infections on Sunday, the fourth consecutive day it topped the global record. Official death counts stood at more than 2,800. However, public health experts and news accounts indicate that both infection and death rates are vastly under counted.
Hundreds have died because of oxygen shortages in northern, western and central regions of the country. Thousands have been unable to get admitted to hospitals because of bed shortages, all indicating a collapse of the healthcare infrastructure.
The NSC statement said the United States is also deploying public health advisors from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and USAID to work with the U.S. Embassy, Indian health agencies. “USAID will also quickly work with CDC to support and fast-track the mobilization of emergency resources available to India through the Global Fund,” it said.
In the call, Sullivan expressed “deep sympathy for the people of India following the recent spike in Covid-19 cases” and “affirmed America’s solidarity with India, the two countries with the greatest number of Covid-19 cases in the world,” it said.
The statement pointed out that the U.S. Development Finance Corporation (DFC) is already funding a substantial expansion of manufacturing capability for Indian manufacturer BioE, which will enable the firm to ramp up production of at least 1 billion doses of Covid vaccines by the end of next year.
READ: Don’t let the ‘America First’ derail India-U.S. ties (April 24, 202)
Pressure was growing on the White House to act with many Indian Americans, including members of Congress from the community, urging the White House to expedite the help.
On Saturday, Illinois Democrat Raja Krishnamoorthi called on the administration to release doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine to India and other countries experiencing Covid-19 surges.
“We are currently sitting on close to 40 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine in the U.S. stockpile, a stockpile which we’re not using and which we’ve already opened to combat Covid-19 in Mexico and Canada,” the Indian American congressman said. “In order to curb the spread of this virus internationally and to protect public health and our international economy, we need to get these vaccines out the door now. 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.”
On Sunday, fellow Indian American lawmaker Ro Khanna echoed the demand for shipping the “stockpile of AstraZeneca vaccines that won’t be used” in the United States.
READ: Covid tsunami hits India with record 332,000 daily cases (April 23, 2021)
“International cooperation and humanitarian assistance are the hallmarks of a truly progressive foreign policy,” the California Democrat said in a statement. “In the face of apocalyptic numbers of Covid-19 cases & new variants exploding in India, I applaud the Biden Administration’s decision to put people over profits and provide additional Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), oxygen, and other medical supplies to India. I am also pleased to see the deployment of raw materials for India to produce more vaccines and USAID’s work with the CDC to expedite the mobilization of emergency resources for India through the Global Fund. This must be done with the utmost speed and urgency.”
Khanna, who is a vice chair of the Congressional India Caucus, said the administration “should also call on Pfizer and Moderna to provide an intellectual property waiver for six months to a year as India grapples with this crisis.”
On Saturday, Indian American billionaire Vinod Khosla offered to fund Indian hospitals that need resources to import oxygen.
“I’m willing to fund hospitals in India that need funding to import bulk planeloads of oxygen or supplies into India to increase supply,” he said in a tweet.