Senate Majority leader Chuck Schumer, D-New York, wrote to President Joe Biden June 1 to ask him to allocate to India a large portion of the 80 million doses of Covid vaccine the U.S. is donating to the world.
Biden June 3 announced his plan for distributing excess doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine, noting that 75 percent will be distributed through the COVAX initiative, with the remaining 25 percent to be allocated to countries with immediate needs.
In the first distribution of 19 million vaccines through COVAX, seven million doses are allocated for 16 countries in Asia, including: India, Nepal, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Afghanistan, Maldives, Malaysia, Philippines, Vietnam, Indonesia, Thailand, Laos, Papua New Guinea, Taiwan, and the Pacific Islands.
Six million have been allocated for South and Central America, and five million will go to countries in Africa.
The additional seven million doses will be shared directly with countries experiencing surges, those in crisis, and neighboring countries, including Canada, Mexico, India, and the Republic of Korea, announced Biden.
"We are sharing these doses not to secure favors 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,” said Biden in a statement released by the White House. “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,” said the president.
Vice President Kamala Harris June 3 spoke to Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi to inform him about the allocation plan.
Modi later tweeted: “Spoke to Vice President 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.”
“We 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,” Modi tweeted.
In his letter to Biden, Schumer wrote: “India is now the epicenter of the COVID-19 pandemic. It has recorded over 28 million COVID-19 cases, second only to the United States, and more than 300,000 deaths, third in the world behind the United States and Brazil.”
“The situation shocked the world last month when it became the only country in the world to reach over 400,000 daily cases. Scientists believe that the Delta COVID-19 variant originally found in India helped drive this surge due to its higher transmission potential,” wrote the senator.
“The rapid spike placed enormous burdens on the nation’s health care system with reports of treatment facilities running out of critical supplies such as oxygen and regions resorting to mass cremation in public parks to handle the volume of patient deaths,” wrote Schumer, adding that the Serum Institute’s pledge to manufacture 90 million doses this month is insufficient to meet the needs of India’s 1.3 billion people.
Only 12 percent of people in India have received one dose, and less than three percent are fully vaccinated.
Schumer noted that India had helped the U.S. last year with its Covid crisis by sending personal protective equipment. “Now it is time for us to give back and help the people of India,” he wrote.
Schumer’s letter to the president came a day after the Senate Majority leader met with Indian Ambassador to the United States Taranjit Singh Sandhu. During the conversation, Schumer expressed concern over the sudden spike in COVID-19 cases in India.
Sandhu later tweeted: “Good conversation with Majority Leader Senator Schumer on the strategic partnership, especially in QUAD, vaccines and healthcare. Discussed working together in innovation as well as emerging technologies and thanked him for his longstanding support for India and the Indian American community."
Quad is a partnership between the United States, India, Japan and Australia to manufacture U.S.-developed vaccines in India. Under the plan, Quad nations will finance, manufacture and distribute at least one billion doses of Covid vaccines by the end of 2022.
On June 3, IMPACT said in a statement it welcomes the decision by Biden and Harris to send 25 million vaccines abroad to help fight the pandemic globally — including a dedicated supply of lifesaving doses to India.
“We’ve been mobilizing the diaspora to urge the Biden administration to share our surplus vaccines to fight the pandemic and vaccine inequity,” said Neil Makhija, Indian American executive director at IMPACT. “We are thankful the administration has responded to the pleas of the Indian American community. But with over one billion people in India still waiting to get access to vaccines, we must do much, much more. The U.S. will have a surplus of nearly 300M vaccines by July, and President Biden should act swiftly to send those doses to countries in dire need, such as India.”
It added that it supports Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi’s plan to dramatically expand American aid to India, Argentina, and other nations to end COVID surges.
“As coronavirus outbreaks continue to rage across the world, we’ve passed the time to talk about millions of doses – we need to be talking about billions, and how we can distribute and administer them as soon as possible to save lives both abroad and in the United States,” said Krishnamoorthi (D-IL). “I’ll be introducing legislation next week to address these challenges and to end the pandemic across the world to prevent new variants from sparking another COVID-19 outbreak in America.”