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After denying raw materials for vaccine, US officials rush to undo damage and promise help

Top US officials including President Biden and Vice President Harris extended solidarity after coming under fire for denying raw material for coronavirus vaccine.

NSA Ajit Doval’s call with US NSA Jake Sullivan jolted the entire US administration making them realise the urgency to be shown in sending raw materials to India for manufacturing its Covid-19 vaccines.

The call which seems to have brought about a change of heart, has also ignited a race amongst the US officials to extend unconditional support to India.

Tweets in this regard were made by some of the top officials of the US government.

US President Joe Biden expressed his determination to help India just as India assisted the US when the country’s health infrastructure was strained early in the pandemic.

In April 2020, at the beginning of coronavirus pandemic, India had relaxed blanket ban on export of hydroxychloroquine which to countries that needed it, especially the US. Hydroxychloroquine at that time was administered to combat coronavirus as not much information was available for treatment of patients at that time. The then US President Donald Trump had said that America will not forget this gesture. However, America did forget.

Vice-President Kamala Harris informed that the US government is working closely with the Indian government to tackle the crisis at hand.

Deputy State Secretary Wendy Sherman informed through her tweet that the US is sending ventilators, PPE and raw materials to India rapidly.

Extending support, Secretary Antony Blinken assured additional support to India’s health care heroes.

NSA Jake Sullivan expressed deep concerns and the will to ensure uninterrupted required medical supplies to India.

Assuring immediate help US NSA Jake Sullivan to NSA Ajit Doval said, “United States has identified sources of specific raw material urgently required for Indian manufacture of Covishield vaccine that will immediately be made available for India.”

An official statement issued by Sullivan read, “US has identified supplies of therapeutics, rapid diagnostic test kits, ventilators and PPE that will immediately be made available for India. US is also pursuing options to provide oxygen generation & related supplies on an urgent basis.”

NSA Jake Sullivan’s official statement on his call with NSA Doval

Embargo on raw materials

Justifying invocation of the Defence Production Act which led to the curtailment of exports on raw materials for making the Covid-19 vaccines, the State Department Spokesperson Ned Price said, “We have a special responsibility to the American people. It’s, of course, not only in our interest to see Americans vaccinated, it’s in the interests of the rest of the world to see Americans vaccinated.”

The Biden administration thereafter came under severe criticism from across the globe, including from members and supporters of the Democratic party, for holding back the unused surplus COVID-19 vaccines to India when the country is facing a health crisis.

Citizens were quick to remind the Biden administration of the help extended by India for supplying hydroxychloroquine, the anti-malarial drug being cited as many as a game-changer in the fight against the Covid-19 pandemic in 2020 when no other scientific solution was available to fight the deadly pandemic. 

The Indian manufacturers started to face a shortage of supplies since early April. Adar Poonawalla, CEO and owner of Serum Institute of India, took to Twitter to appeal to US President Joe Biden to lift the embargo on the export of raw materials essential to the manufacturing of Covid-19 vaccine Covishield amidst the second wave of the Coronavirus pandemic.

On April 16, 2021, Adar Poonawalla said that “if we are to truly unite in beating this virus, on behalf of the vaccine industry outside the U.S., I humbly request you to lift the embargo of raw material exports out of the U.S. so that vaccine production can ramp up. Your administration has the details.”

Wanting to protest himself, Poonawalla in an interview with India Today remarked, “I wish I could go there and protest in the US myself to say that you are holding back critical raw material that are required for Covaxin and so many vaccine manufacturers in India and other parts of the world.”

However, Poonawalla assured that the shortage and the struggle to procure raw material will not prolong because in a few months, they will be able to develop other suppliers.

India receives aid from across the globe

India has received help in kind from many countries which were once supported by India while dealing with the pandemic.

After criticizing the slowdown of the export of vaccines from India, German Chancellor Angela Merkel expressed solidarity with the people of India and said that they are preparing a “mission to support” to aid India’s fight against the pandemic.

The European Union (EU) has also pledged its support to India amid the second wave of coronavirus.

“The EU together with its member states will do its utmost to support India in this difficult moment,” said Ugo Astuto, Ambassador of the European Union to India and Bhutan in a tweet.

India has also received backing from the UK government with UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson tweeting, “We stand side by side with India in the shared fight against COVID-19. Vital medical equipment is on its way from the UK to India to help stop the tragic loss of life from the virus and we’ll continue to work closely with the Indian government during this difficult time.”

France too has come forward to supply a significant supply of medical oxygen in the coming days to curb the acute shortage being faced by the country.

On the other hand, Saudi Arabia is shipping 80 metric tonnes of liquid oxygen to India as the nation is running low on supplies.

“Embassy of India is proud to partner with Adani group and M/s Linde in shipping much-needed 80MT liquid oxygen to India. Our heartfelt thanks to the Ministry of Health Kingdom of Saudi Arabia for all their help, support, and cooperation, the Indian mission in Riyadh tweeted.

India fighting Covid

Meanwhile, in the past 24 hours India has recorded 219,272 discharges taking the overall recoveries to 14,304,382.

As per Ministry of Health data, more than 141 million doses of the Covid-19 vaccine have been administered as of 8 am today.

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Staff reporter at OpIndia

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