With more than four lakh deaths, India is one of the worst-hit countries during the COVID-19 pandemic. While domestic vaccine manufacturing efforts have been ramped up, issues of raw material shortage had compelled us to turn to the United States for assistance in April this year.
However, India’s request to lift the embargo on the export of raw materials from the US was initially met with resistance from the Biden Administration, following which the US received severe criticism from all quarters and later changed its stance. In fact, United States went a step further and announced to donate millions of vaccines to India under the COVAX initiative on 3 June 2021.
Here’s a timeline of all you need to know about the complicated vaccine sharing the history of India and the United States.
In early April 2021, US Secretary of State, Antony Blinken, appointed Gayle Smith, an ex-administrator of USAID, to head up the administration’s vaccine-diplomacy efforts. Biden also announced the Quad Vaccine Partnership, which aimed to finance, manufacture, and deliver one billion vaccines for the Indo-Pacific region by the end of 2022. The production was to be centred in India.
However, things got a little tense soon, as it came to light that Unites States was not willing to lift the embargo on the export of vaccine raw materials.
April 16 2021
Adar Poonawalla, the CEO of the Serum Institute of India, tweeted at the American President, Joe Biden, and wrote, “Respected @POTUS, if we are to truly unite in beating this virus, on behalf of the vaccine industry outside the U.S., 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.”
April 21 2021
The press questioned Ned Price, the spokesperson for the US Department of State, about US export restrictions to which he replied that the administration has a special responsibility to the American people who have “been hit harder than any other country around the world … It is not only in our interest to see Americans vaccinated; it’s in the interests of the rest of the world to see Americans vaccinated.”
While murmurs of criticism had started after Poonawala’s tweet, this comment by Ned Price did not go down well with the public, and the United States faced vehement flake for its policy of not sharing vaccine raw material.
April 25, 2021
Blinken tweeted a message of solidarity with the Indian people amid the horrendous wave of the COVID-19 pandemic and promised additional support in the fight against the virus. Then, National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan followed up with a phone call to his Indian counterpart and then declared several steps to help the country, including the export of raw materials for vaccines.
Biden weighed in on the unfolding crisis, skillfully noting that India had helped the United States in its hour of need, as did Vice President Kamala Harris, USAID Administrator Samantha Power, and Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin.
April 26, 2021
The Biden administration announced on April 26 that it will begin sharing its entire stockpile of AstraZeneca vaccine with other countries, including India, once it clears federal safety reviews.
May 2 2021
White House Chief of Staff, Ron Klain, said on May 2 that the Biden administration is looking to distribute the coronavirus vaccine to India and other countries now that millions of Americans have received their vaccine doses.
May 30 2021
India and the US agreed to formally cooperate and work together to open up supply chains for vaccines. They consented to sharing of components to help Indian manufacturers to produce Covid vaccines for India and the world.
June 3 2021
The US vice president Kamala Harris during a telephonic conversation with Prime Minister Narendra Modi declared that the Biden administration plans to donate 25 million of a possible 80 million doses of covid-19 vaccines. This donation would be made under the COVAX initiative.
June 22 2021
More than two weeks after the US announced plans for the first 25 million doses of Covid-19 vaccines to be shared with the world (June 3, 2021), the Joe Biden administration declared the distribution of the remaining 55 million of total 80 million doses.
Of 55 million doses, 16 million will be given to Asia under the COVAX facility. India has been named one of the 18 countries that will get a share from these 16 million doses.
July 13, 2021
India is yet to receive the vaccine promised by the United States under the COVAX initiative. On Tuesday, media reports claimed that the United States is all set to expedite the export of vaccines. However, it is currently waiting to get a green signal from the Indian Government, which is reviewing the legalities related to accepting vaccine donations from the US.
India is slated to receive stockpiles of AstraZeneca, Pfizer, Moderna vaccines. In recent weeks, India’s neighboring countries like Pakistan, Nepal, Bhutan, and Bangladesh have received the US vaccine.