Outbreaks anywhere threaten recovery everywhere, says Indian American lawmaker.
As India battles a deadly second coronavirus wave, Indian American lawmaker Ro Khanna wants the United States to urgently respond to India’s ghastly Covid-19 surge as “the tragedy is not India’s alone.”
“In India, injustice is everywhere as the country grapples with a record-setting second wave of the virus,” wrote the third term US House member from California in the May 17 issue of Foreign Affairs.
“Thousands gasp for oxygen from empty canisters that hospitals can’t refill. The smoke from funeral pyres fills the air of major cities and small towns alike.” Khanna noted.
“The tragedy is not India’s alone. Such outbreaks are breeding grounds for more dangerous and potentially vaccine-resistant variants of the virus,” he wrote. “All countries must recognize that they are in a race against time to vaccinate humanity.”
“Unless the United States and other wealthy countries dramatically change course, this race will be lost,” Khanna wrote asserting, “This perilous moment calls for American scientific, technological, humanitarian, and foreign policy leadership.”
“The United States must urgently respond to India’s ghastly Covid-19 surge and demonstrate that it has learned a fundamental lesson from the past pandemic year: none of us are truly safe until all of us are safe,” he wrote.
Failing to rise to the moment will lead to dystopian outcomes, Khanna wrote noting that according to WHO the Indian variant of the virus had spread to 49 countries.
That highly transmissible strain, which the WHO recently dubbed a ‘variant of concern,’ is one of the causes of the terrible second wave of Covid-19 in India, he noted.
India’s crisis is slowing the wider global recovery from the pandemic, Khanna wrote noting as one of the world’s leading pharmaceutical manufacturer, India was supposed to produce much of the supply of Covid-19 vaccines for poor nations.
But India now needs those vaccines to control its own outbreak, as only a tenth of Indians have received one dose of a Covid-19 vaccine, he wrote.
Due to “unfortunate knock-on effects” of India’s suspension of vaccine exports in April, Khanna wrote a “third of the human beings on this planet will not receive the vaccine in the near future.”
The mass manufacturing and distribution of vaccines remains the only way to prevent more deadly surges as the virus spreads through cities and into vulnerable rural areas, he wrote.
“The United States has been a leader in mobilizing humanitarian support for India, but it has a moral imperative to do more,” Khanna wrote.
It can immediately save lives by dramatically increasing USAID’s shipments of oxygen, ventilators, therapeutics, personal protective equipment, and other medical supplies to India, he wrote.
But Americans, Khanna wrote “can also offer a more consequential kind of support: the United States should prevail upon its private sector to share with India and other developing countries the technology and knowledge needed to beat the pandemic.”
The United States should press Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna to make contract manufacturing or voluntary licensing arrangements with Indian firms for the duration of this crisis and the predicted next wave, he wrote.
An intellectual property waiver at the WTO will be critical to ensure the sharing of vaccine technology and knowledge worldwide, but India’s Covid-19 surge demands immediate action, Khanna wrote.
Washington has tremendous leverage to push these companies to share mRNA vaccine technology with manufacturers in India and around the world, he wrote.
“Visionary US leadership to guide the world out of this pandemic will pay tremendous dividends in generating global goodwill for generations to come,” Khanna wrote.
“The United States has the chance to ensure that India’s current crisis will not be repeated and instead marks the moment that the international response to Covid-19 fundamentally changed from one of vaccine nationalism to treating vaccines as a global public good,” he wrote.
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