Indian American lawmakers sponsor bill to fight Covid abroad

Photo credit: Feras Ismail, American Bazaar

IMPACT seeks community support for NOVID Act saying this is not an Indian crisis, but a global one.

Three Indian lawmakers, Raja Krishnamoorthi, Pramila Jayapal, and Ro Khanna have sponsored a bill calling for bold US leadership to fight the pandemic across the world.

The bill would allocate $34 billion to dramatically expand US anti-Covid aid to end outbreaks and prevent new strains through vaccinating 60% of the population of 92 most vulnerable low-and-middle income countries

House members Krishnamoorthi and Jayapal were joined by senators Jeff Merkley and Elizabeth Warren in introducing the bicameral Nullifying Opportunities for Variants to Infect and Decimate  (NOVID) Act Wednesday.

Even as global Covid-19 infection and fatality rates decline, more than 300,000 new people test positive each day, Krishnamoorthi noted in a press release.

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He cited a recent survey by Oxfam saying 88% of epidemiologists believed that persistent low vaccine coverage in many countries would make it more likely for vaccine-resistant mutations to emerge from the ongoing caseload and 66% said that within a year the virus would mutate to the extent that the majority of first-generation vaccines would become ineffective.

Following in the footsteps of the Lend-Lease Act in the Second World War, the NOVID Act would immediately help save lives in those nations still hardest-hit by the virus by reducing the potential emergence of dangerous new strains, the release said.

It would do so by helping to inoculate at least 60% of the populations of the 92 low- and middle-income countries eligible to receive Covid-19 vaccines through the Covid-19 Vaccines Global Access (COVAX).

“Despite the progress we’ve made here at home, the coronavirus continues to devastate other parts of the world, and these outbreaks represent a threat to Americans with an increased risk of double and triple mutation variants which the vaccines we have today may not be able to stop,” said Krishnamoorthi.

“That’s why I’m proud to join with my colleagues in introducing this legislation to protect our country from new variants by helping our partners abroad vaccinate their populations, end their outbreaks, and prevent new variants from emerging within their borders or reaching ours.

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“So long as Covid-19 continues to thrive anywhere, it’s a threat to everyone everywhere, and that means we need the global response the NOVID Act would provide,” he said.

“A global pandemic is not over until it is over everywhere,” said Jayapal. “It is not only our moral responsibility to quickly and equitably unleash the resources necessary to defeat this deadly virus abroad, but doing so will also keep us safe at home while reducing the risk of dangerous new variants.

“At the heart of the NOVID Act is a powerful recognition that whether you live in America or around the world, your future is intertwined with mine — that we’re all better off when we’re all better off.”

The bill would authorize spending for $34 billion: $25 billion to cover the cost of scaling manufacturing capacity and producing 8 billion vaccine doses; $8.5 billion to cover the cost of end-to-end delivery of enough vaccines to immunize 60% of the populations in the 92 COVAX countries; and $500 million to establish a global disease surveillance network to protect against future pandemics.

In addition to the bill’s co-leads, the House version of the NOVID Act’s original cosponsors included Ro Khanna.

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IMPACT, a leading Indian American community organization has sought people’s support for the NOVID Act.

“This is not an Indian crisis, but a global one—and what we do now comes back to America,” said IMPACT Executive Director Neil Makhija. “Global vaccine inequity leaves us all susceptible to new Covid variants.”

The NOVID Act lowers the risk of new and dangerous variants from reaching the United States, and positions us as global leaders in the fight against this devastating pandemic, he said.

Makhija said IMPACT was “grateful for the work of representatives like Reps. Krishnamoorthi, Jayapal, and Khanna who have been fierce advocates in the fight against the pandemic across India and the globe.”

“The pandemic will not end for any of us until it ends for all of us,” he said.

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