Friday, 20 May, 2022
HomeOpinionWhy Biden needs to come to India’s aid now to battle the...

Why Biden needs to come to India’s aid now to battle the Covid-19 surge

US has accumulated a stockpile of AstraZeneca vaccine of more than 20 million doses. It should ship these stockpiles to India instead of leaving them in the warehouses.

Text Size:

India has become the terrifying new epicenter of the Covid-19 pandemic. New cases have topped 300,000 daily and are still rising; the official death toll of over 2,000 per day is almost certainly an underestimate. Every hour brings horrifying new stories of mass cremations, overwhelmed testing centers, people dying while waiting for a hospital bed. The country desperately needs help — and the U.S. should provide it.

To this point, the Biden administration has rebuffed pleas to share the huge U.S. supply of vaccine doses with the rest of the world, making a slight exception only for neighbors Mexico and Canada. And India is hardly the only nation buffeted by a new wave of cases. Brazil’s official death toll is far higher. Many African countries are struggling to procure vaccines, whereas India boasts a homegrown pharmaceutical industry that can churn out tens of millions of doses.

Still, there are several reasons why the Biden administration should view the crisis in India with particular alarm. The first is the sheer scale of the problem. Just one Indian state — Uttar Pradesh — has nearly as many people as Brazil; Maharashtra, home to the country’s financial capital Mumbai, has nearly twice the population of South Africa. Now that migrant workers are once again fleeing cities for the countryside, and worshipers have returned home after attending the massive Kumbh Mela religious festival on the banks of the Ganges, there are fears that the virus could take hold in the countryside where most of the country’s 1.3 billion citizens live.

If it does, India’s tottering healthcare system risks a breakdown. Per capita, Brazil spends about 40 times as much on healthcare as Uttar Pradesh. Brazil has 214 doctors per 100,000 people, compared to Uttar Pradesh’s 39. The northern Indian state has less than half as many hospital beds per capita. And yet, even Brazil’s richest state Sao Paolo has warned its healthcare system is verging on collapse. If the surge in cases continues, India’s poorest states won’t be able to cope.

This could have massive repercussions for the U.S. and other nations. The variant that seems to be driving India’s new wave of cases has already been found elsewhere, including in the U.S. The longer the pandemic rages in India, the greater the chances that more dangerous mutations will emerge and spread around the world.

Finally, India’s role in the global pandemic is unique. The developing world is counting on affordable Indian vaccine-makers such as Serum Institute of India Pvt. Ltd. for their supplies. With India now reserving virtually all its doses for domestic use, those countries will have to wait even longer to be vaccinated. And if the pandemic disrupts production at Indian pharmaceutical companies, it could affect crucial non-Covid medications as well. Half the world’s children have been vaccinated by Serum Institute.

The Biden administration can do two things to help. The first is to ease restrictions on critical exports, imposed under the Defense Production Act to prioritize the needs of U.S. companies.

Vaccine production requires very specific, medically approved inputs, which are difficult to substitute quickly in the middle of a pandemic. Currently, U.S. producers must secure permission before exporting such things as special sterile filters, disposable bags for cell cultures, cell culture media and single-use tubing. The embargo has led to major bottlenecks. Serum Institute says that without those inputs, it may not be able to deliver the 160 million vaccine doses it had planned to produce next month.

Second, the U.S. should immediately share doses from its own supply of Oxford-AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson vaccines. Even though regulators have yet to approve the AstraZeneca vaccine for use in the U.S., the country has accumulated a stockpile of more than 20 million doses and has a purchase agreement for 300 million more. It also has a purchase agreement for 100 million J&J doses, which U.S. officials fear some Americans will be reluctant to take because of potential side effects.

The Biden administration should ship these stockpiles to India instead of leaving them in U.S. warehouses. The move wouldn’t slow down the current U.S. vaccination drive, which is proceeding without either vaccine. Serum Institute is already producing AstraZeneca doses and another Indian company, Biological E Ltd., is making the J&J vaccine. India could thus refill U.S. coffers, if needed, once the current crisis is under control.

The Biden administration, which says it’s consulting with India on its surge, has recognized the need to vaccinate the world. It has increased funding to the World Health Organization’s COVAX facility, which aims to distribute vaccines to low-income countries, and rallied its fellow “Quad” nations behind an effort to produce doses for Southeast Asia.

But both initiatives will take time to bear fruit — and both depend crucially on Indian vaccine-makers. If the U.S. wants either effort to succeed, it needs to come to India’s aid now.- Bloomberg


Also read: Carnegie, ORF, Takshashila, others ask Biden to ease vaccine material supply curbs


 

Subscribe to our channels on YouTube & Telegram

Why news media is in crisis & How you can fix it

India needs free, fair, non-hyphenated and questioning journalism even more as it faces multiple crises.

But the news media is in a crisis of its own. There have been brutal layoffs and pay-cuts. The best of journalism is shrinking, yielding to crude prime-time spectacle.

ThePrint has the finest young reporters, columnists and editors working for it. Sustaining journalism of this quality needs smart and thinking people like you to pay for it. Whether you live in India or overseas, you can do it here.

Support Our Journalism

8 COMMENTS

  1. Wonderful humanitarian effort by the administration.

    But the credit goes to dutts rahuls kejris and thakreys.

    Had they not seen coverage of dutts on pyres, rahuls with ambassadors, kejris spend on wuhan ads, kimbahuna thakreys oxygen leaks and deaths, it would haven been impossible to have idlis and chtiiti loving people listen to.

    The credit goes to them.. all for the taking.

  2. I find this like the ant and the grasshopper story . US has done the hard work of creating stockpiles of vaccines and developing competency to completely manufacturing these vaccines . I don’t know where our atma nirabhar pride goes when we go asking US to share vaccines . This is truly shameful .

  3. The left liberal cabal is only good at giving sermons, talk big to claim moral high ground. But when it comes to actual execution, they pull their hands back. Joe Biden falls in the same ilk.

    • Comparing Joe Biden to FDR may be a bit of a stretch. However, he is doing a lot of good. Will change America for the better. By how much, that the next four years will show. Promised 100 million jabs in the first 100 days, delivered 200 million. Big talk toh aapke priya Trump aur Bolsonaros karte hain.

      • What good he is doing for the world and particularly India? FDR proclaim that they don’t believe in national boundaries !

      • If Biden was able to over deliver on his vaccine commitment in such a short time, it means he’s extending the work of the previous administration, so giving him all the credit is far fetched.

        Biden’s talk and actions are progressively having negative repercussions for India.
        – denying India vaccines
        – trumpeting of FONOP exercise, when India has not even objected to it
        – continuing to pressurize India for difficult cuts on climate change when they pollute orders of magnitude higher per capita than Indians do. This is not even accounting for the historical emissions that they’ve already released that brought the world to its current state.

        Biden as a negative for India will get confirmed if they apply CAATSA sanctions for S400.

        We will have to ensure that other than confronting China, we maintain our strategic autonomy on all other issues.

      • Duh! All vaccines developed under Trump’s Operation Warp Speed. Biden and mainstream media claiming credit as it their wont. So typical of leftist pseuds.

      • 75% of trash that left India will continue to vote for anti-india & pro-islamist democrats and labor.

Comments are closed.

Most Popular

×