New Delhi: As US President Joe Biden is gearing up to host Quad summit, on September 24, in the virtual format with Prime Minister Narendra Modi in attendance, one issue that is sure to come up for discussion is the Covid-19 pandemic and the world’s response to it in the form of faster and more accessible vaccination. For America, vaccinating as soon as possible is crucial because the uncontrolled spread of the virus inevitably produces more dangerous variants.
A senior Biden administration official was quoted as saying by media that the US is communicating regularly with India in bilateral and multilateral channels to discuss the supply of Covid-19 vaccines and inquire about its timeline for restarting vaccine exports.
As part of the effort, it is expected that the United States will subtly but surely try and convince India to restart vaccine exports. According to reports, the Biden administration plans to offer a higher-profile role for PM Modi at an upcoming Covid-19 global summit in New York if he agrees to release vaccines soon.
It is to be mentioned that India is the world’s biggest vaccine maker. In March, PM Modi halted exports of the AstraZeneca vaccine — one of the cheapest on the market — as the virus wreaked havoc in India. The country saw mass deaths and destruction as a ruthless second wave broke the back of India’s creaking health infrastructure.
Notably, the Narendra Modi-led government had been criticised for ‘giving away’ 60 million precious vaccines even as India had supply issues of its own for domestic use. The resumption of this supply from India, mainly SII-produced Covishield, will reportedly resume only after the country completes its domestic vaccination target of complete adult immunisation by end of 2021.
A person in the know of the process said: “India has to focus on its home needs first. While there is pressure from COVAX, India will likely resume this supply only after its domestic needs of two jabs for each adult is complete. India did suffer in the second wave, and the world understands that.”
On the other hand, the US itself effectively banned its own vaccine exports for months until it had enough supply for all Americans. It has also reserved hundreds of millions of doses for boosters, much to the chagrin of the WHO, which has repeatedly asked countries to give poorer nations the chance to inoculate more of their populations with first doses.
More than 5 billion Covid vaccine shots have been administered globally, with 75% of them administered in just 10 countries, according to the WHO.