We’re trying to determine raw materials we could provide to address shortfall, he says
The United States has been in contact with the Serum Institute of India and other vaccine manufacturers to boost production of vaccines against COVID-19, said the U.S. envoy to India on Tuesday.
Addressing a virtual press meet, Charge d’Affaires Ambassador Daniel B Smith described the second wave in India as a development that has “global implications” and expressed continued support from the Biden administration which has committed $100 million in assistance.
“We are watching carefully the production levels at the SII and elsewhere. We have been in close touch with the SII to try to determine what raw materials we could provide, and assistance that we can provide to help boost production,” said Mr. Smith. “The U.S. has also diverted enough of Oxford AstraZeneca manufacturing supplies from its own pre-existing orders to produce over 20 million vaccine doses in India.”
The U.S., he said, will not use the Oxford AstraZeneca vaccine as of now as it has “three vaccines available and the Biden administration has determined that that is sufficient for our needs”. However, he said the policy regarding the extra Oxford AstraZeneca doses is yet to be finalised.
Mr. Smith’s comments came weeks after SII’s Adar Poonawalla urged the Biden administration for “raw materials” for production of vaccines. On April 16, he took to social media to appeal to Mr. Biden: “I humbly request you to lift the embargo of raw material exports out of the U.S. so that vaccine production can ramp up. Your administration has the details.”
The SII had entered into agreements with neighbours like Bangladesh to supply millions of doses of Covishield vaccines but the company has been unable to supply them as India’s domestic requirement increased because of the second wave. Countries like Nepal, Bhutan and Bangladesh have been affected as they urgently require additional doses of Covishield.
The U.S. envoy indicated at the growing regional risk because of the SII’s inability and said Washington DC will work to provide vaccines to India and to those that are not receiving them.
“I have heard from the government of Bhutan, about their concern that India of course, is having to divert a lot of its existing production to its own domestic needs, which is absolutely understandable. But in the same token, it means a lot of these countries are at risk that they will not get a second round of this vaccination,” said Mr. Smith urging E.U. and other partners to come forward to address this challenge.
He also said the U.S. is keeping track of the government-funded oxygen-related items and medicines that are being flown into India which he said is part of the seven decades long “health partnership”. He said the two countries jointly worked to defeat HIV, TB and other infectious diseases.
He said the second wave has global ‘implications’ especially as India is a global producer of vaccines. “India’s role as the supplier for vaccines for much of the world is critical and we are watching carefully.”