US vaccine shipment on hold as India sorts legal hurdles
The United States said on Tuesday it is waiting for India to resolve some legal issues to ship its share of the 80 million doses of Covid-19 vaccines President Joe Biden has committed to donate towards fighting the pandemic around the world.
“India has determined that it needs further time to review legal provisions related to accepting vaccine donations,” state department spokesperson Ned Price said. “Once India works through its legal processes, our donations of vaccines to India will proceed expeditiously.”
India is slated to receive these vaccines through the WHO-led Covax programme, and not directly from the United States in a bilateral arrangement. Talks are currently under way regarding regulatory issues and liability issues, according to people familiar with the matter.
President Biden has announced he will donate 80 million doses of Covid-19 from the domestic US stockpile to countries around the world either directly or through the WHO-led Covax programme. America has also placed an order for 500 million Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine for distribution around the world.
Several countries in India’s neighbourhood have already received these donated US vaccines - Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Nepal, the Maldives, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka. “Roughly 40 million doses have been delivered worldwide so far,” said Price.
Asked if the US was considering lifting travel restrictions on India in view of the improved situation, the state department spokesperson said, “That is something that we are taking a close look at - the US government, I should say, is taking a close look at. There are expert groups that have been formed. And “experts” in this case refer primarily to medical professionals, because for us this is not a decision about politics; this is a decision about public health and the safety of the American people but also the safety of the global travelling public.”
In other words, the restrictions will remain in place till these experts deem it otherwise.
The White House had announced restrictions on travel from India in April on the recommendation of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention “in light of extraordinarily high Covid-19 caseloads and multiple variants circulating in India”.