U.S. Pledges to Help India as COVID Outbreak Reaches Record High

April 27, 2021 By Private: Joan Steiger

Yesterday, the Biden Administration announced that it would share over 60 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccines to countries around the world—with India included as a potential recipient, since the country is an experiencing a sharp uptick in the number of COVID-related cases and deaths since March.

As a second wave sweeps across the country, the situation is escalating rapidly, with over 350,000 new cases and 2,800 deaths reported daily—a new world record for cases reported in a single day. Meanwhile, hospitals and medical facilities are running out of beds, oxygen and much-needed supplies, while critically ill patients are unable to receive medical attention in time.

As the COVID-19 crisis continues to devastate the country, there are real concerns that India’s health care system could collapse, and the outbreak could spread to other countries and destabilize the region—prompting the United States and others in the international community to step up to help India respond to this terrible outbreak.

USGLC President and CEO Liz Schrayer has called the crisis in India a “clarion call” and that much more will be needed from the U.S. and its allies in the fight against the global COVID-19 pandemic—and fast. Yesterday’s decision is critical to ensuring crises like the one in India don’t happen again and that they’re stopped before they spread any further.

Dr. Anthony Fauci also weighed in on ‘ABC This Week with George Stephanopoulos’ on Sunday, April 25, saying “We are doing things…as part of COVAX, the $4 billion [pledge], and other things. But we really do need to do more…There’s discussions about really ramping up what we can do on the ground, oxygen supplies, drugs, tests, PPE [personal protective equipment], as well as taking the look into the intermediate and long run about how we can get vaccines to these individuals, both immediately now, as well as in the situation where you help them to be able to essentially make vaccines themselves. Bottom line…it’s a terrible situation that’s going on in India and other low- and middle-income countries.”

In a conversation between National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan and his Indian counterpart, Ajit Doval, the same day, the Biden Administration reaffirmed its partnership with India and resolved to help the country fight against the COVID-19 pandemic—building on over 70 years of U.S.-India partnership on global health initiatives, including battles against smallpox, polio, HIV, and now COVID-19.

Tapping into America’s Development Toolbox

The Administration is now dedicating resources from its development toolbox to help with the COVID-19 surge in India with immediate assistance to include vaccine raw materials, COVID-19 testing kits, PPE, oxygen supplies, ventilators, and other medical equipment, as well as long-term financing support to enable India to produce vaccines domestically.

“Just as India sent assistance to the United States as our hospitals were strained early in the pandemic, the United States is determined to help India in its time of need,” said Emily Horne, a spokeswoman for the National Security Council.

Other U.S. development efforts include:

  • Development Finance Corporation (DFC): Through DFC funding, India’s vaccine manufacturer, BioE—a woman-run and woman-operated business—will substantially expand its manufacturing capability and be able to produce at least 1 billion doses of COVID-19 vaccines by the end of 2022.
  • USAID and Centers for Disease Control (CDC): A team of CDC and USAID public health advisors and experts will work closely with the U.S. Embassy, India’s health ministries, and India’s Epidemic Intelligence Service staff to help with the country’s COVID-19 response. The USAID and CDC team will help improve laboratory services, infection prevention, and surveillance, among other things, while also supporting the mobilization of emergency resources to India through the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria.

As the COVID-19 pandemic has shown again and again, no one is safe until everyone is safe—adding urgency for the United States and countries around the world to help India during this dire situation, working together to save lives and prevent further spread of the virus throughout the region.

And while the Administration’s announcement yesterday is “an important step for ensuring that access to COVID vaccines is both global and equitable,” Schrayer also warns that that up against the risk of new variants “more needs to be done.”