Underlining that the US has “special obligations” towards India, an influential American lawmaker on Monday urged the Biden administration to immediately share the unused stockpile of AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccines with the country, which is facing an unprecedented surge in the coronavirus cases.
Congressman Tom Malinowski also urged the government to activate all possible resources in the US, including in the Defence Department, to rush the necessary oxygen generation and storage tools and ventilators to India.
India is struggling with a second wave of the pandemic with more than 3,00,000 daily new coronavirus cases being reported in the past few days, and hospitals are reeling under a shortage of medical oxygen and beds.
“I call on the administration to ensure that all of the WHO-approved AstraZeneca vaccines in our stockpiles (which the US will not use) are shared with India and other nations the moment that can safely be done,” Malinowski said.
He also urged the government to accelerate plans for sharing globally some share of the large surplus of vaccines that the US has produced or reserved for its population.
“This process,” the Congressman from New Jersey said, “should begin now, and not wait until we have achieved herd immunity in the US.”
Last week, US had said it will distribute the 60 million AstraZeneca vaccine doses that is with it. However, it has not taken a call on when these jabs would be distributed and when countries like India would receive them.
Urging strong US financial support for global institutions, like COVAX, that are making vaccines available to developing countries, Malinowski said from a public health standpoint, this is the most fair and objective way to ensure that vaccines get to those who need them most.
“But there is nothing wrong with engaging in ”vaccine diplomacy” on top of our generous support for COVAX,” he said.
“President Biden rightly decided that he had a special responsibility to secure enough supply to vaccinate Americans before others; by the same token, the US can and should make a special effort to deliver surplus vaccine doses to friends and allies, including India, to whom we also have special obligations, and to facilitate the export of raw materials needed for vaccine production in these countries,” Malinowski said.
“We have a public health interest in getting as many vaccines out as quickly as possible, and a historic opportunity to be the country that leads the world away from COVID. There is not a moment to be lost,” he said.
Praising the Biden administration”s actions to begin rushing medical supplies to “our friends in India”, the Congressman hoped that the administration will announce new steps in the coming days to accelerate the production and distribution of COVID vaccines around the world.
“The Indian people are facing a particularly painful surge of COVID-19 cases, and many are dying simply due to a lack oxygen, ventilators, and hospital capacity. It is clear that we have not only a moral obligation to come to the assistance of our Indian friends, but a national security interest in helping the world”s largest democracy recover from the pandemic before it becomes an incubator of new vaccine-resistant variants of the disease,” he said.
According to Indian health ministry data, single day rise of 3,68,147 COVID-19 infections and 3,417 fatalities pushed the country”s tally of cases to 1,99,25,604 and deaths to 2,18,959 on Monday.