Top US lobby group urges Biden to help India fight Covid-19

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The US Chamber of Commerce, one of the most powerful lobbying groups in America, has urged the Biden administration to send its stockpile of unused AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccines – also called Covidshield – to India and other countries that could use them.

“As the Covid pandemic inflicts a heavy toll on countries around the globe, the US Chamber strongly encourages the administration to release the millions of AstraZeneca vaccine doses in storage – as well as other life-saving support – for shipment to India, Brazil, and other nations hard-hit by the pandemic,” said Myron Brilliant, executive vice-president of the chamber.

Pressure has been growing on the Biden administration to do more to ensure the availability of vaccines around the world as the situation at home improves with more than 210 million Americans – over half the population – having received at least one shot of the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna two-dose vaccines and the one-dose Johnson & Johnson variant (which is currently on pause).

AstraZeneca vaccines, which are available in India as Covidshield made by the Serum Institute of India, is not approved for use in the United States yet, with regulatory bodies concerned by its use of outdated data to seek authorisation. The company was prepared to roll out 30 million doses by April. It was not immediately known if that target had been met.

“These vaccine doses will not be needed in the United States, where it’s estimated that vaccine manufacturers will be able to produce enough doses by early June to vaccinate every American,” Brilliant said, echoing top public health officials such as Anthony Fauci, who has said the US won’t need AstraZeneca as it has enough already, of Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccines.

Sending the AstraZeneca vaccines to India and other countries, Brilliant said, “would affirm US leadership, including in initiatives such as COVAX, and as we work with partners around the globe because no one is safe from the pandemic until we are all safe from it”.

COVAX is a World Health Organization-led initiative to ensure free and affordable access to vaccines around the world.

A growing number of lawmakers are urging the Biden administration to support a proposal put forward by India and South Africa to temporarily waive intellectual property rights to Covid-19 vaccines, therapeutics and technologies to make them more accessible around the world.

And, Indian and US officials are in talks to resolve a supply bottleneck created by President Joe Biden’s use of war-time powers under the Defense Production Act that prioritise US supplies of raw materials for Covid-19 vaccines for use in American. This could slow down Indian production of vaccines down the line it is feared.

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