India's unprecedented rise in COVID-19 cases, which has surpassed all global records, needs immediate help from the western countries.
A Boston-based chamber has appealed to the White House and Congress to leverage and deploy all available resources at their disposal to help save lives in India, warning that any delay in intervention from the US can make India’s COVID-19 emergency a global health and economic crisis.
India’s unprecedented rise in COVID-19 cases, which has surpassed all global records, needs immediate help from the western countries. United States is the only country in the world which has the resources and assets to help India tide this crisis of unimaginable magnitude, USA India Chamber of Commerce (USAIC) which for more than a decade has been hosting the annual India US Pharma Summit in Boston.
“Failure to provide help in a timely manner on a war footing by the United States can result in loss of lives in India. USAIC appeals to the White House and the US congress to leverage and deploy all available resources at its disposal to help save lives in India,” said USAIC president Karun Rishi. “All lives are equal. It is about humanity. Precious lives being lost in India can be saved. Any delay in intervention from the US can make this a global crisis from the public health and economic point of view,” he said.
Encouraged to see the movement of some assets from the US to India, Rishi said it needs to be scaled up 100 times to make an impact on the ground, be it oxygen concentrators, cryogenic tankers, vaccine raw materials or vaccines. “Many public health experts have recommended the US release surplus stockpile of AstraZeneca vaccines to India. USAIC is of the view that this should be done immediately in consultation with India. Multi-pronged attack on this crisis can help control the situation,” Rishi said, adding that the US industry has come together to support India in this crisis.
BioPharma industry has been actively working with India to make vaccines available directly or through partners. USAIC applauded AstraZeneca, Johnson & Johnson and Novavax for working to get their vaccines available in India. India with 1.3 billion people; one sixth of the world population will need more partnerships and vaccine technologies to overcome this pandemic.
“One silver lining which has emerged is that this pandemic will speed up India’s journey towards innovative research driven BioPharma industry. Global industry and academic partnerships will scale up. This will lead to innovative products for various therapeutics areas coming from India in the coming years. This will benefit patients worldwide,” Rishi said. Another organisation, Young India, on Monday released an advocacy paper for the US leadership to collaboratively execute with its Indian counterparts in response to the devastating wave of COVID-19 infections engulfing India.
“One of our goals for publishing this time-sensitive document was to give US leadership at both the executive and legislative branches a snapshot of where things stood and what actions they could take,” said Rohit Tripathi of Young India. “The necessity for collaborative Indo-US action to prevent the bilateral relationship from experiencing deep harm and the serious need to fast track efforts to remove fair weather intellectual property bottlenecks are also emphasized,” he said.
Young India has also shared this document with progressive diaspora organisations to help them shape their own advocacy with their contacts in these branches of government. In its policy paper, it urged the Biden administration to provide liquified oxygen stocks, oxygen concentrators, cryogenic tanks, refillable oxygen cylinders with 10 litres and 45 litres LMO capacity, and in situ oxygen manufacturing plants for hospitals.
Seeking the release of a substantive portion of the AstraZeneca vaccine from American stockpile, the paper urged the United States to ease restrictions on exporting critical raw materials needed for manufacture of vaccines, imposed under the Defense Production Act (DPA). Products like bags and filters, cell culture media, single-use tubing assemblies and other such specialty raw materials needed for vaccines and COVID-19 therapeutics face a supply crunch, which can be alleviated by relaxing export restrictions under the DPA, it said.
Noting that less than one per cent of the infections are currently being genome sequenced, it said providing aid to improve India’s sequencing capabilities will help identify reasons behind the recent surge and guide a targeted response that will also be needed as the virulent strains from India spread globally.
“This could either happen directly via CDC India or indirectly by knowledge transfer, expert consults, etc. The US could also consider establishing a US CDC field office in India that augments India’s sequencing efforts and allows for broader epidemiological studies of infectious diseases such as TB, Malaria etc,” it said.