Eye on China, US lawmakers urge Biden to partner India on global vaccine supply
A group of prominent American lawmakers has written a letter to President Joe Biden to ensure global supply and distribution of coronavirus disease (Covid-19) vaccines as US partners and allies were forced to use "sub-standard and ineffective" Chinese and Russian vaccines. The bipartisan members of US Congress have urged Biden to use Corbevax, a Indo-US collaboration, in the global fight against Covid-19.
Lauding India's efforts in providing Covid vaccines to low-income countries, the lawmakers urged the President to partner with India and take leading position in vaccine delivery. This apparently is the result of the efforts of Indian Ambassador to the US, Taranjit Singh Sandhu, who has organised various outreach programmes. In these programmes, Indian diplomats have been emphasising on strong healthcare partnership between India and the US, and the potential for India-US collaborations to provide affordable vaccines/medicines, including to the developing, especially Africa and Latin America.
The move is being seen as a counter to China's vaccine diplomacy, under which the dragon has promised to donate 600 million doses of Sinovac and other vaccines to many poor and developing countries in Africa and other parts of the world. The promise was made by Chinese President Xi Jinping in November last year, after Omicron outbreak was detected in Africa.
"We have seen with the emergence of Delta and Omicron, Covid-19 variants will continue to threaten our own domestic health security and full economic recovery. While we recognize existing administration efforts to supply Covid-19 vaccines around the world, the global supply is woefully insufficient to meet urgent and pressing demands," the lawmakers said in the letter written on Tuesday.
"Our partners and allies are forced to utilize ineffective and substandard vaccines from China and Russia, adversaries seeking to leverage this pandemic for economic and political gain," they further said.
Corbevax, a two-dose protein subunit vaccine, is the result of collaboration between India and the US. It is patent free, affordable and requires lesser logistics including refrigeration; the vaccine has been dubbed "game changer" in the global fight against the pandemic by US health experts. Corbevax received emergency use authorization in India on December 28, 2021, after a large US-based clinical trial found the vaccine to be safe, well tolerated and over 90 per cent effective at preventing symptomatic infections.
The letter has been led by Senator John Cornyn, Co-Chair, Senate India Caucus; Congresswoman Eddie Bernice Johnson, Chairwoman of the Science and Technology Committee; Congressman Michael McCaul, Ranking Member of House Foreign Affairs Committee; Congressman Joaquin Castro, Chair of the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on International Development, and International Organizations and Congressman Mark Veasey, Member, House Armed Services Committee.
Separately, the Black Caucus had written to the President on vaccine cooperation and delivery.
“Global health experts have identified an array of needs where the United States leadership can have a real and immediate impact to save lives and slow the spread of Covid-19. Most important is to continue to help countries manage and deliver the vaccines, especially given the generous investment by the United States in purchasing the doses,” four top American lawmakers wrote in the letter last month.
It was signed by Barbara Lee; Judy Chu, chair of the influential Congressional Asian American Pacific Caucus; Raul Ruiz, chair of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus; and Joyce Beatty, chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus.
They also wrote that the American leadership is needed on expanding access to diagnostic, therapeutic and other health needs like oxygen and personal protective equipment.
“Not least, as the pandemic stretches into its third year, assistance is needed to address related harms such as hunger, school closure, growing strains on health system and other related health efforts,” the letter added.
The letters sought to draw the huge discrepancy all over the world in terms of getting vaccine shots. Less than 10 per cent of people in low-income countries have received at least one dose of Covid-19 vaccines, while in developed nations, more than 70 per cent of people have received at least one dose. These countries are also giving booster shots to its population now.
The development follows focused outreach by Sandhu and the embassy to these important caucuses which represent over 170 members of the US Congress and include several members of the Senate.
Notably, Sandhu has spoken to all the chairs of the three caucuses, and they expressed strong support for the collaboration with India for global good.