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The United States has finally toned down its stance after controversy erupted over the administration’s ‘America first’ comment in response to India’s request for the Covid-19 vaccine and raw materials needed to produce the vial.
Taking to Twitter, US Secretary of State Antony J Blinken on Sunday said, “Our hearts go out to the Indian people in the midst of the horrific COVID-19 outbreak. We are working closely with our partners in the Indian government, and we will rapidly deploy additional support to the people of India and India’s health care heroes.”
Our hearts go out to the Indian people in the midst of the horrific COVID-19 outbreak. We are working closely with our partners in the Indian government, and we will rapidly deploy additional support to the people of India and India's health care heroes.
Even US tech billionaire Vinod Khosla and lawmaker Raja Krishnamoorthi have urged the Joe Biden administration to release the vaccine.
READ: Why US’s belated offer of Covid aid to India has raised eyebrows
“I’m willing to fund hospitals in India that need funding to import bulk planeloads of oxygen or supplies into India to increase supply. Public hospitals/NGO’s also pls reach out,” Vinod Khosla said.
I'm willing to fund hospitals in India that need funding to import bulk planeloads of oxygen or supplies into India to increase supply. Public hospitals/NGO's also pls reach out @PMOIndia @MoHFW_INDIA @timesofindia @INCIndia #IndiaFightsCOVID19 @htTweets @IndianExpress @GiveIndia
“The AZ vaccine is unlikely to be ever approved in the US given current alternatives here. @Potus should absolutely release all doses and future commitments for US supply since Moderna and @pfizer can supply US needs,” he said.
Congressman Raja Krishnamoorthi, on the other hand, said, “We need to release our stockpile of unused AstraZeneca vaccines now. In India alone, almost 350,000 COVID-19 cases were reported today. When people in India and elsewhere desperately need help, we can’t let vaccines sit in a warehouse, we need to get them where they’ll save lives.”
We need to release our stockpile of unused AstraZeneca vaccines now. In India alone, almost 350,000 COVID-19 cases were reported today. When people in India and elsewhere desperately need help, we can't let vaccines sit in a warehouse, we need to get them where they'll save lives pic.twitter.com/D3Ygtc8lzh
This comes days after massive outrage over State Department’s statement on April 22, when the spokesperson said America had a “special responsibility” to the “American people.”
Responding to a question on whether the US will provide vaccines and raw material to India, State Department Spokesperson Ned Price said, “Number one, 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 comments did not go down well with New Delhi. However, the two sides remained engaged on the matter with Washington DC deciding on providing supplies to India. It is not clear whether if the support will be in the form of a vaccine or related to the oxygen shortage that the country is facing.
In a tweet, US National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan said, “The U.S. is deeply concerned by the severe COVID outbreak in India. We are working around the clock to deploy more supplies and support to our friends and partners in India as they bravely battle this pandemic. More very soon.”
The U.S. is deeply concerned by the severe COVID outbreak in India. We are working around the clock to deploy more supplies and support to our friends and partners in India as they bravely battle this pandemic. More very soon.
Experts believe that with the American population largely vaccinated, hoarding vaccines when allies are in trouble shows the US in bad light.
“United States has already vaccinated a large segment of its population. I think more than 50 per cent have received the first shot and 40 per cent the second shot. In addition to that, the US is sitting on hundreds of millions of vaccines which are more than adequate to vaccinate its population many times over,” said former diplomat Ashok Sajjanhar.
Meanwhile, the US-India Business Council (USIBC) and the US Chamber of Commerce are working with the business community to support India’s fight against the coronavirus pandemic.
“It has been heartening to see how many USIBC members have stepped forward to offer resources for USIBC initiatives and share the activities their organizations have undertaken on other fronts, and we are encouraging our members to find creative and substantive ways to support India in its efforts to combat the pandemic,” a USIBC statement said.
US Chamber of Commerce issued a statement on Saturday urging the US government to distribute its stockpiles of millions of doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine and provide other lifesaving medical resources to India and other countries hard-hit by the pandemic.
All this comes when many questions are being raised on whether Donald Trump would have been better and why is Vice President Kamala Harris quiet on this matter.
Explaining whether Trump would have been better, Ashok Sajjanhar said, “Last year, when US wanted HCQ (Hydroxychloroquine), export was banned in India but we lifted the ban and ramped up production to provide the drug to US and many other countries… It seems US has forgotten that.”
On February 5, US President Biden invoked the Defense Production Act to increase the country’s supply of materials needed to make vaccines, Covid-19 tests and personal protective equipment. India raised the issue since it knew this could hamper imports of critical drugs and supplies to India.
“This dithering for more than two and a half months has sent out a very negative signal to the people of the country in India as also the Indian diaspora in the US. That is not good for bilateral relations as we go forward. Many now are speaking wistfully about Trump time when they see this kind of attitude… it is hoped and expected that Biden will take the right decision very soon,” Ashok Sajjanhar added.
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