Prime Minister Narendra Modi spoke on the phone with U.S. Vice-President Kamala Harris on Wednesday to discuss the U.S. announcement of how it would share the first tranche of 25 million vaccine doses out of the 80 million doses it has committed to sharing by the end of June. It is not yet clear what the specific allocation for India will be.
“Spoke to @VP Kamala Harris a short while ago. I deeply appreciate the assurance of vaccine supplies to India as part of the US Strategy for Global Vaccine Sharing. I also thanked her for the all the support and solidarity from the U.S. government, businesses and Indian diaspora [sic],” Mr. Modi tweeted.
“We also discussed ongoing efforts to further strengthen India-U.S. vaccine cooperation, and the potential of our partnership to contribute to post-COVID global health and economic recovery,” the Prime Minister said.
A government readout of the call said Mr. Modi had discussed strengthening the health supply chain, including in vaccine manufacturing. They also discussed the Quad vaccine partnership, which aims to manufacture, in India, at least 1 billion vaccine doses (mostly Johnson and Johnson) by the end of 2022, for supply across Asia.
Significantly, Mr. Modi invited Ms. Harris to India, after “the normalisation of the global health situation”. Ms. Harris’s mother’s family is from Tamil Nadu and Ms. Harris has made multiple visits to Chennai in her earlier years.
“Vice-President Kamala D. Harris spoke this morning to President Andres Manuel López Obrador of Mexico, President Alejandro Giammattei of Guatemala, PM Narendra Modi of India, and PM Keith Rowley, Chairman of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM),” a White House readout of her calls said, adding that there were individual calls to each of the leaders, in which Ms. Harris notified them of the decision to share 25 million vaccine doses.
“The Vice-President reiterated that the Administration’s efforts are focused on achieving broad global coverage, responding to surges and other urgent situations and public health needs, and helping as many countries as possible who requested vaccines.”
The U.S. has committed to donate 13% of its vaccine supply or 80 million doses by the end of June to other countries. Many rich countries such as the U.S. have come under increasing pressure to not hoard excess doses while developing countries, like India, face shortages.
On Wednesday morning (Washington time), U.S. President Joe Biden released a statement emphasizing that the doses were not being shared with any strings attached.
“We are sharing these doses not to secure favours or extract concessions. We are sharing these vaccines to save lives and to lead the world in bringing an end to the pandemic, with the power of our example and with our values,” he said.
“At least 75% of these doses — nearly 19 million — will be shared through COVAX, including approximately 6 million doses for Latin America and the Caribbean, approximately 7 million for South and Southeast Asia, and approximately 5 million for Africa,, working in coordination with the African Union and the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention. The remaining doses, just over 6 million, will be shared directly with countries experiencing surges, those in crisis, and other partners and neighbours, including Canada, Mexico, India and the Republic of Korea,” Mr. Biden said.
Based on this, it is not clear how many doses India will receive, and if it will receive a second tranche via the COVAX ( an international effort to equitably distribute vaccines) allotment.
Removed from purview of U.S. DPA Law
At a virtual briefing on Thursday, Jeff Zients , who is heading the White House COVID-19 response, said the U.S. was removing Defense Production Act (DPA) “priority ratings” for AstraZeneca, Sanofi and Novavax — enabling these companies to fulfil purchase orders as they see fit (rather than prioritise U.S. government orders). The U.S. federal government had, a few weeks ago, announced that it had diverted its AstraZeneca orders to India to help boost vaccine manufacturing in India, as the country faces a massive second Covid wave.
Mr. Zients called the decision on how the first 25 million doses ‘equitable’ and one that was following the latest science and data.
U.S. National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan said the U.S. received requests from all over the world and based its decision on achieving global coverage, responding to surges, helping as many countries as possible and prioritising the U.S.’s neighbours, Mr. Sullivan said.
One million Johnson and Johnson vaccine doses are leaving California for South Korea on Thursday. Earlier in March, the U.S. shared 4 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine to Mexico and Canada.
“Our approach also prioritises South and Southeast Asia, including countries like India, Nepal, the Philippines, and others that are undergoing surges right now,” Mr. Sullivan said.
The U.S. will continue to donate from its excess supply, officials said.
(With inputs from Suhasini Haidar in New Delhi)
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