After initially stopping exports of raw materials needed for vaccine production from USA to India, Joe Biden on Monday has promised to help India battle the severe Covid-19 crisis it is facing. Two weeks after Adaar Poonawalla and others had raised the issue with the Indian government and Ministry of External Affairs about the shortage of raw materials (primarily from USA) required to produce vaccines, US President Joe Biden and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi held talks on Monday which seem to have been fruitful. The USA had initially refused to allow exports of raw material to India required for manufacturing vaccines while citing that it put American citizens first and would only export material once all American citizens have been vaccinated. Things have moved on quite smoothly after that.
After President Biden’s announcement, 318 Philips Oxygen Concentrators were flown to India via an Air India flight from New York to New Delhi. President Biden said the USA was “determined to help India in its time of need.” After his phone call with Prime Minister Narendra Modi, President Biden said USA is sending “a whole series of help” to India among which Remdesivir and vaccination help are the key factors. He said on the topic of USA helping India – “With regard to India, I spoke at length with Modi, the Prime Minister. We are sending immediately a whole series of help that he needs, including providing for those — remdesivir and other drugs that are able to deal with this and prevent, in some cases, but recover — help recovery.”
The Americans will also be assisting India by sending mechanical parts for the machines used for producing vaccines in India and also specified that there are plans to send whole vaccine vials from USA for use in India. During the global first wave, India had assisted the USA battle Covid-19 by sending supplies of drugs like Hydroxychloroquine (HCQ) at a time when USA had little to no help. “And I might add, when we were in a bind at the very beginning, India helped us,” Mr. Biden said as he was leaving the venue. The White House expressed its gratitude for India’s help during 2020 to fight the pandemic and that it plans to export 50 to 60 million doses of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine for use in other countries which include India.
Indian National Security Advisor Ajit Doval has played an important role in easing the restrictions on export of raw materials from USA. Mr. Ajit Doval spoke with his American counterpart Jake Sullivan on Sunday after which the US assured immediate release of specific raw materials required by Serum Institute of India (SII) to increase Covid-19 vaccine production. US Vice-President Kamala Harris tweeted in support saying “the US Govt. is working closely with the Indian govt. 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.”
Mr. Jake Sullivan has assured the US govt. will be on hand round the clock to provide assistance to India. He also added that the materials required for production of Covishield vaccine have been identified and released to help India ramp up their vaccination efforts. The US has also pledged supplies of therapeutics, PPE kits, rapid diagnostic test kit and ventilators. America is also plotting options to aid oxygen generation & related supplies on an emergency basis. During the phone call, the US also said the US Development Finance Corporation (DFC) is funding a substantial expansion of manufacturing capability for BioE, the vaccine manufacturer in India, enabling BioE to ramp up to produce at least 1 billion doses of Covid-19 vaccines by the end of 2022.