COVID-19: Top US senators urge Biden to ramp up support to India

Lalit K Jha
·3-min read

Washington, Apr 28 (PTI) Two top American Senators, from the ruling Democratic and the opposition Republican parties, have urged President Joe Biden to accelerate US efforts of supporting India's fight against COVID-19.

Senators Mark Warner and John Cornyn, co-chairs of the Senate India Caucus, in a letter to Biden, said they were watching with growing alarm the unprecedented surge of COVID-19 cases, hospitalisations, and deaths, which have overwhelmed hospitals and the overall health system in India.

'This pandemic has devastated populations and nations across the globe, making very clear that the virus knows no borders. In order to control its spread globally, saving lives abroad and here at home, we must do our part to attack the virus where it is most devastating and active,” they wrote in the letter dated April 27.

'We write to urge you to accelerate US efforts to support other countries as they work to combat the COVID-19 virus,' it said.

“As the United States strengthens its capacity to fight this virus, with vastly expanded testing and widespread vaccinations for Americans, we must ramp up our support to countries that are being particularly hard hit, such as India, through the provision of medical supplies and surplus vaccinations,' Warner and Cornyn wrote.

“US government agencies – both civilian and military – should be mobilized to lead an international response to the pandemic that both protects the American people from the virus and supports other countries’ efforts,” the two powerful American Senators wrote.

Over the weekend, the two jointly made a call to the White House, urging it to consider sending urgent help to India.

As is the case in this global crisis, this unmitigated surge in COVID-19 not only threatens India and its people, but it threatens the entire world as variants emerge and nations continue to struggle to limit the virus’ spread, they wrote.

“We urge you to find ways to increase support to the most impacted countries, including India, with surplus vaccines, supplies, and field hospitals, as they battle to reduce the number of deaths and new cases,” the two senators wrote.

The United States has demonstrated real ingenuity and a capacity to scale up its COVID-19 testing and vaccination regimes during the pandemic, the letter said, adding that the US has conducted more than 300 million tests.

Now, as the United States averages 2.82 million vaccine doses per day, new cases and deaths have dropped significantly.

Even accounting for current and anticipated needs domestically, there is now a surplus supply of testing kits that can have the greatest impact abroad, along with personal protective equipment that so many countries desperately need.

“In addition, with millions of unused AstraZeneca vaccine doses on hand, the US has the ability to send many abroad without a detrimental impact to our own vaccination efforts at this crucial time. We applaud and encourage your efforts to share AstraZeneca doses with India and other countries in need as they come available,” they wrote.

Cornyn and Warner, in their letter, also congratulated Biden for taking specific actions to remove obstacles that would get in the way of sending excess vaccines to India. While India has significant capacity to vaccinate, its per capita vaccination rates are insufficient to cover such a large population, they said.

“Further, we urge you to remove the export embargo on raw materials to India used in vaccine production, which would allow The Serum Institute of India to ramp up production of vaccines that it already produces domestically. We ask that you also assess similar barriers that prohibit the sharing of excess vaccines with other nations,” Cornyn and Warner wrote. PTI LKJ IJT