Experts believe that the US will achieve the target of vaccinating its entire adult population soon
During the pandemic, it is natural for a government to give priority to its domestic requirements. Experts believe that the US will achieve the target of vaccinating its entire adult population soon. In addition, it has piled up vaccines which it may never use. “Therefore, the Biden administration needs to revise its policy on the export of the vaccine and lift the ban on the supply of raw materials to other countries”, opines Prof Rajan Kumar, School of International Studies, JNU, New Delhi.
Sharing his views with Financial Express Online, Prof Rajan says, “The US was hit harder than many countries in the world. The Biden administration has a special responsibility to protect its own people. However, what works the best is a balance between its domestic requirements and external responsibilities.”
“If every state starts shutting its door on others, such a policy will be counterproductive. No country can ever be safe, if the virus continues to spread in other countries,” Prof Rajan adds.
Why is lifting a ban important?
Because, if the Serum Institute of India (SII) does not get the raw material, not only Indians but many poor countries in Africa and South Asia will suffer. The collaborative QUAD exercise of developing and distributing vaccines will also suffer.
“As a global leader, the US has a special responsibility to ensure the supply of raw materials, medical equipment and protective kits to other countries. The credibility of the US as a reliable partner will be under serious threat if it continues to deny raw material to other countries. It must waive its restrictions invoked through the war-time Defence Production Act,” Prof Rajan observes.
Expert views of a former diplomat
According to former Ambassador Anil Trigunayat, “The US has been witnessing, during the COVID crisis, that not only it achieved the distinction of being the most infected and affected nation in the world but inefficiency of its medical infrastructure and inadequacy of leadership had been badly exposed during Trump’s era. He followed America First to the T and Biden despite faring better is finding it difficult to get out of the hoarding mentality.”
“Abdication of their global responsibility does’nt augur well while we may appreciate their concerns for the health and safety of American citizens first. Continuing to sit on stocks of 40mn doses of AstraZeneca which they will not use is unjustified,” observes Amb Trigunayat.
In conclusion he says, “Fortunately after the rest of the world has risen to the crisis in India we are witnessing course correction by the US as several officials are committing to US assistance for India. It is important that Delhi not only accords the maximum importance and highest priority to develop its critical health infrastructure but also develops reliable Partnerships because HEALTH of citizens is paramount.”
What has the US said now?
In this context, the statement by National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan assumes significance. In a welcome change, he has assured the Indian government that the raw material needed for the production of the vaccine COVISHIELD would be made available to India. It will also help BioE to ramp up its production capacity of 1 billion doses of vaccines by the end of 2022. This followed after India’s National Security Advisor had a telephone call with his US counterpart Jake Sullivan.
Acknowledging India’s assistance to the US when the US hospitals were strained, in 2020, in a readout shared by The White House on Sunday, it said, “The specific raw material required for the COVISHIELD Vaccine has been identified and will be made available immediately.”
The US has also offered to deploy an expert team of public health advisors from the Centre for Disease Control (CDC) and USAID. These will work in close collaboration with the US Embassy, Ministry of Health and other agencies in India.
What are other countries doing for India?
Russia was among one of the first countries along with France, Germany and the UK to extend a helping hand, after the US banned the export raw material for vaccines citing its laws.
Russia is planning to send special flights with oxygen generators and concentrators as well as other drugs which are urgently required to treat the coronavirus. Unfortunately is not able to send the drug Remdesivir due to the US patent violations. The licensing laws have been invoked by Remdesivir developer, California-based Gilead Sciences Inc.
Later this week Russia will dispatch grant based assistance which include pharma supplies of drugs like Favipiravir, used to treat milder versions of COVID-19, Oxygen generating equipment for various purposes, ranging from use in individual homes to nursing homes and hospitals.
Countries like the UK, and European Union have offered to extend help to India to address the growing shortages of Oxygen and other medical supplies.
The UK has already announced that it is planning to send hundreds of oxygen concentrators and ventilators. This shipment is expected to reach by Tuesday (April 27, 2021).
Has also promised assistance to India, and so has Ursula von der Leyen, European Commission president has announced through social media “pooling resources” in support.
According to Janez Lenarcic, EU’s crisis management commissioner, the Bloc was “co-ordinating” supplies of oxygen and medicine. Adding this was being activated at India’s request.
What had the US banned?
It had banned the export of essential raw materials like bags, valves etc. Forcing SII to express helplessness in increasing the vaccine production.