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India taps channels for urgent supplies, US hints ready to help

Earlier this week, Washington had indicated that it would not be a lifting a ban on exports of key ingredients required in vaccine manufacture, a setback for Delhi from a “close strategic partner”.

Written by Shubhajit Roy | New Delhi |
Updated: April 25, 2021 7:24:34 am
Joe Biden India covid support, US India relation, COVID support from US, US India covid second wave, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Biden-Modi, India news, Indian express newsUS President Joe Biden. (The New York Times: Doug Mills)

With the Covid-19 surge crippling the healthcare system, hectic diplomacy is on with major countries for urgent supply of vaccines, oxygen-related equipment such as tankers, ventilators and other critical life-saving devices.

The Sunday Express has learnt that meetings are underway in Washington DC over the weekend with key stakeholders, including in the government and private sector. Sources in New Delhi said they were “cautiously optimistic” of positive outcomes of those meetings.

Earlier this week, Washington had indicated that it would not be a lifting a ban on exports of key ingredients required in vaccine manufacture, a setback for Delhi from a “close strategic partner”. But there has been a change in approach in the last 24 hours, and a decision to help India is expected in the next couple of days, The Sunday Express has learnt.

Many in Washington DC’s political and business elite are in favour of helping India, sources said. On Saturday, the US Chamber of Commerce made a vocal pitch, calling on the White House to release “the millions of AstraZeneca vaccine doses in storage” — apart from life-saving equipment — to India, Brazil, and other nations hit hard by the pandemic.

On Friday, US Health Secretary Matt Hancock tweeted, “Heartbreaking scenes from India… We stand ready to help fight this awful virus.” Top medical advisor to the US President Dr Anthony Fauci also said the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) was in talks with Indian counterparts for technical assistance, adding, “we’re trying to help in any way we can”. “Obviously they need to get their people vaccinated because that’s the only way we’re going to turn that around,” Dr Fauci said.

White House spokesperson Jen Psaki said the US is “working closely with Indian officials at political and experts’ level for ways to help address the crisis”.

While no commitment was made for any specific help, New Delhi is reading these as signs of softening of the US position on vaccines and its ingredients. Several US lawmakers have also advocated helping India.

For a month now, vaccine manufacturers and upstream suppliers have been reporting shortage of raw and packaging materials, critical consumables and equipment. Over time, such shortages can lead to shortage of vaccines and impact delivery commitments, as well as delay regulatory clearances for some products, experts said.

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