Days after External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar met key officials in the Biden administration in Washington DC, the US announced Thursday that it will distribute Covid-19 vaccines to India as part of its “strategy for global vaccine sharing”.
President Joe Biden made the announcement and Vice President Kamala Harris called up Prime Minister Narendra Modi regarding Washington’s plans to make vaccines available to other countries, including India.
Initial estimates suggest India will get about 2-3 million doses in the first tranche of doses via COVAX and directly from the US. This is a day’s dose for India – on Thursday, the country administered 2.62 million doses, according to a provisional official report. These included 24,04,166 first dose beneficiaries and 220,805 second dose beneficiaries.
A US statement said that the administration will begin sharing the “first 25 million doses of COVID vaccines” with countries as part of the framework for sharing at least 80 million vaccines globally by the end of June.
Biden said: “At least 75 per cent 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,” he said.
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 US government, businesses and Indian diaspora.
— Narendra Modi (@narendramodi) June 3, 2021
White House Coronavirus Response Coordinator Jeffrey Dunston Zients said the first tranche of 25 million doses will include Pfizer, Moderna and J&J.
Biden said: “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 the US has allocated the first 25 million of the vaccines to lay the ground for increased global coverage and to address real and potential surges, high burdens of disease, and the needs of the most vulnerable countries.
Prime Minister Modi, after speaking to Vice President Harris, said: “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 all the support and solidarity from the US government, businesses and Indian diaspora.”
He said they also discussed ongoing efforts to further strengthen India-US vaccine cooperation, and “the potential of our partnership to contribute to post-Covid global health and economic recovery”.
US NSA Jake Sullivan said that Biden made a commitment to ensure that India received doses, and an allocation not just under the regional portion through COVAX but additional allocation from the “discretionary” portion of the US.
He said “the precise destination of the judgments we make, about where those go, is a combination of where there are specific urgent situations where partner countries are facing crises and so some examples of that include a portion of those doses will go to India”.
Zients said that the US administration is also “removing the Defence Production Act priority ratings for AstraZeneca”.
“We’re removing the DPA priority ratings for AstraZeneca, Novavax and Sanofi. While the manufacturers will continue to make these three vaccines, this action will allow these companies that supply these vaccine manufacturers to make their own decisions of which orders to fulfil first.”
This move is expected to ease supply of raw materials for vaccine manufacturers including the Pune-based Serum Institute of India.
Biden said “strong American leadership is essential to ending this pandemic now, and to strengthening global health security for tomorrow — to better prevent, detect, and respond to the next threat. The United States will be the world’s arsenal of vaccines in our shared fight against this virus. In the days to come, as we draw on the experience of distributing the vaccine doses announced today, we will have more details to provide about how future doses will be shared. And we will continue to do all we can to build a world that is safer and more secure against the threat of infectious disease.”