How India & US Ended The Impasse Over Covid-19 Vaccine Material Supply

The US has softened its stand on the export of COVID-19 vaccine raw materials and promised to help India to tackle the fast-spreading pandemic. But what made the Biden administration tone down its rhetoric on its ‘America First’ policy?

It is the back-channel diplomacy, which helped end the deadlock. According to reports, Washington’s decision to extend support to New Delhi came on Sunday night after an intense conversation between India’s National Security Advisor Ajit Doval and his US counterpart Jake Sullivan.

Expressing “deep concern” over the “severe COVID outbreak in India”, Sullivan took to Twitter to announce that the two countries are “working around the clock to deploy more supplies and supports” to India.”

US secretary of state Antony Blinken also tweeted that the US is “working closely” with India to “rapidly deploy additional support to the people of India and India’s health care heroes.”

India, the largest vaccine manufacturer in the world, imports the raw materials from other countries, and the bulk of them comes from American. However, the Biden administration put a curb on the export of these items under a wartime law, the US Defence Production Act.

Last week, Washington stressed its ‘America First’ policy, leading to a massive backlash on social media. State Department spokesperson Ned Price had said: “…the United States first and foremost is engaged in an ambitious and effective and, so far, successful effort to vaccinate the American people”.

“That campaign is well underway, and we’re doing that for a couple of reasons. Number one, we have a special responsibility to the American people. Number two, the American people, this country has been hit harder than any other country around the world more than 550,000 deaths, tens of millions of infections in this country alone,” he added.

In its report, The Eurasian Times highlighted how the US-led Quadrilateral Security Dialogue or QUAD had pledged cooperation to the COVID-19 pandemic among other issues, during the first-ever summit of the bloc last month. The report also pointed out the lack of clarity from Washinton on whether if it would supply the required raw materials to India or not.

But on Sunday night, Washington extended support to India in its fight against the pandemic, honoring the “seven-decade long health partnership” between the two nations.

America is air-lifting oxygen generators, concentrators, Remedisivir anti-viral drug to India on an urgent basis. Recognizing India’s need for raw materials to produce the Covishield vaccine, the US has promised to make them available immediately. The timeline of 48 hours has been announced within which these medical supplies and equipment and raw materials for the vaccine would be despatched to India.

A statement issued by the White House said: “The United States has identified sources of specific raw material urgently required for Indian manufacture of the Covishield vaccine that will immediately be made available for India.

To help treat COVID-19 patients and protect front-line health workers in India, the United States has identified supplies of therapeutics, rapid diagnostic test kits, ventilators, and Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) that will immediately be made available for India.

The United States also is pursuing options to provide oxygen generation and related supplies on an urgent basis. The U.S. Development Finance Corporation (DFC) is funding a substantial expansion of manufacturing capability for BioE, the vaccine manufacturer in India, enabling BioE to ramp up to produce at least 1 billion doses of COVID-19 vaccines by the end of 2022.

“Additionally, the United States is deploying an expert team of public health advisors from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and USAID to work in close collaboration with the U.S. Embassy, India’s health ministries, and India’s Epidemic Intelligence Service staff. USAID will also quickly work with CDC to support and fast-track the mobilization of emergency resources available to India through the Global Fund.” 

As of April 26, India’s active Coronavirus cases stand at 2.8 million and 195,123 deaths. The country has administered 140 million Civishield vaccine doses in the past 100 days.