The Biden administration has said that the government of India did not request it for ready-to-use vaccines , as pressure has been mounting on the U.S. to give out vaccines to countries such as India, which is in the throes of a massive COVID-19 outbreak. A senior administration official told The Hindu , during a briefing call with reporters, that no specific request for vaccines was made by the Modi government.
U.S. lawmakers and other influential voices have been calling for the U.S. to donate its spare vaccines to countries like India, particularly some of the tens of millions of doses of AstraZeneca vaccine.
“Just to be clear, right now we have zero doses available of AstraZeneca,” White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said at Monday’s press briefing, in which a remarkable amount of time was spent on questions and answers about India.
Ms Psaki said that approximately 10 million doses could be released if and when the FDA (Federal Drug Administration) clears those – a process that could be completed in the coming weeks. Another 50 million doses of the AstraZeneca are expected to be ready in May and June.
The White House COVID-19 and National Security teams , working with other government departments is going to assess needs and requests around the world, she said.
Three other vaccines are currently approved in the US – from Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson.
Indian is currently facing a shortage of vaccines. The Hindu has reached out to the Indian Embassy for comment on why ready to use vaccines were not on the list of requests for U.S. assistance.
A U.S. administration official said among India’s requests however were oxygen and related supplies, with COVID-19 patients dying in India due to a lack of Oxygen, as per reports in the media. The official said that the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) and US Agency for International Development ( USAID) were working on getting oxygen generation systems to India, including by potentially re-routing shipments. DoD is also looking at field oxygen generations systems, which could support 50-100 beds.
In addition to oxygen concentrators and ventilators , the U.S. is planning to facilitate training in India and technical discussions are underway around whether these devices can be connected to Indian systems. A “strike team” is also being deployed to the U.S. Embassy in India, to work with Indian experts including, including in laboratory-related services.
The administration is also facilitating access for India to personal protective equipment (PPE), tests and therapeutics such as remdesivir, according to officials. The drug’s US manufacturer, California-based Gilead Sciences, which owns the patent for the drug, announced that 450,000 vials would be donated to India.
Lawmakers in the U.S. have asked Mr Biden to support an initiative led by India and South Africa to waive Trade Related Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) at the World Trade Organization for COVID-19 vaccines and therapeutics. A senior administration official said on Monday that the topic came up “briefly” during a call between Mr Biden and Prime Minister Modi, earlier in the day.
“We are looking at it,” an official said in response to question from The Hindu but did not offer comment on the current position of the administration.
The U.S. is however looking at ways to bolster the production of vaccines, including mRNA vaccines, around the world in partnership with India, as per officials.
Delay in U.S. Response
Asked to respond to criticism that the U.S. was late in responding to the crisis in India, Ms Psaki pointed to the U.S.’s own challenge with the pandemic, the assistance the U.S. had offered to India over the weekend and U.S. assistance globally. The U.S. was “committed” to getting India the assistance it needs and “will continue to communicate at the highest level,” she said.
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