Biden admin criticised for not releasing surplus COVID-19 vaccines to India

Biden admin criticised for not releasing surplus COVID-19 vaccines to India
File Photo [Screengrab: @POTUS/Twitter}

The Biden administration has come under criticism from several quarters, including from members and supporters of the Democratic party, for not releasing surplus COVID-19 vaccines to India when the country is experiencing its worst-ever public health crisis.

Indian-American Congressman Raja Krishnamoorthi urged the Biden administration to release doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine to countries currently experiencing the deadly surge in COVID-19 cases.

"We are currently sitting on close to 40 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine in the US stockpile, a stockpile which we're not using and which we've already opened to combat COVID-19 in Mexico and Canada," he said.

To curb the spread of this virus internationally and to protect public health and the international economy, the US needs to get these vaccines out the door now, he said.

"I respectfully but strongly call on the Biden administration to release millions of AstraZeneca vaccine doses to countries hardest hit by the spread of COVID-19, including India, Argentina, and potentially others, he added.

Indian-American Congressman from California Ro Khanna said that the leadership of the influential Congressional India Caucus will discuss with the government officials and the Indian envoy in the US to send urgent health supplies to help India fight its battle against coronavirus.

"The US-India caucus leadership will be discussing with government officials & Indian Ambassador on a bipartisan basis to send AZ vaccines we will never use, PPE, oxygen and other immediate aid. Time is of the essence to mobilize," Khanna said on Sunday.

India logged a record of 3,49,691 new coronavirus infections in a day on Sunday, taking its total tally of COVID-19 cases to 1,69,60,172. The death toll increased to 1,92,311 with a record 2,767 daily new fatalities, according to the official data.

"Brad Sherman, Steve Chabot, Michael Waltz and I have been in extensive conversations over the last two days to ensure our government does all it can to help India in this time of need," Khanna told PTI.

Khanna is Democratic Vice Chair of Congressional India Caucus. Congressmen Sherman and Chabot are its co-chairs and Michael Waltz is its Republican vice chair.

"We have a call scheduled with the Ambassador on Monday, and we are coming up with bipartisan priorities of how the US can help. This is a time to double down on our commitment to India and to help save lives," Khanna said in response to a question.

"Agreed," said Congressman Tim Burchett. "We need to stand with our long term friend and ally India," he said and told the president: "If we don't our enemies will."

The Biden administration is losing any goodwill it gained in the last few months, Tanvi Madan from the Brookings Institute said in a tweet.

"Indian public has now seen tweets from Pakistani PM & Iranian FM; had offers of help from Russia & China — i.E. Even a country it has had hostilities with. It has not heard from any senior US officials. The Biden administration is losing any goodwill it gained in the last few months," Madan said.

Indian-American Sonal Shah, who was part of the Biden campaign, tweeted that she has lost five family members in India.

"The COVID crisis in India is real and it will become a humanitarian crisis if it isn't already one. Our US government needs to do something. This will quickly spread to other countries," Shah said.

Jeff M Smith from The Heritage Foundation think-tank said that it is well worth remembering that when New York and other parts of America were facing a public health emergency in late 2020, the Indian government removed an export ban on the active pharmaceutical ingredient hydroxychloroquine, despite stark criticism at home.

President Biden and his predecessor Donald Trump had invoked the war-time DPA that leaves US companies with no option but to give priority to the production of COVID-19 vaccines and PPEs for domestic production to combat the deadly pandemic in America.

"One of our most important friends, India, desperately needs help amidst surging Covid rates. We should be all hands on deck to get them unneeded AstraZeneca vaccines and other lifesaving equipment," Congressman Mike Gallagher tweeted.

Mary Millben, popular Hollywood singer, in a tweet said that she is heartbroken watching the crisis in India. "I join my brothers and sisters in the Indian American community calling on President Biden to help India now," she said.

"Now, we must help India. Why are we not helping our democratic ally and friend? Many of us who love India are asking…," she added.

Gita Gopinath, chief economist of the International Monetary Fund, said that she is deeply disturbed by the exploding health crisis in India.

"The situation in India is desperate," said Dr Audrey Truschke, Associate Professor of South Asian history at Rutgers University.

"The US should release excess supplies to help meet this humanitarian crisis….We should help ease human suffering," she said.

Eric Feigl-Ding, an epidemiologist and health economist, from the Federation of American Scientists, said, "India needs to vaccinate 10 million per day to flatten the curve (India not even close). I'm now worried India will vastly exceed one mil deaths by August." Ajay Jain Bhutoria, the Democratic Party leader who was part of the Biden campaign, urged the president to consider allocating any excess vaccines and vaccine-making raw material to help other countries in the world as most of the other countries are significantly behind.

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