US State Department Spokesperson Ned Price on Friday defended Washington’s restrictions on the export of key raw materials for the manufacture of COVID-19 vaccines that has crippled vaccine production in India. “The US first and foremost is engaged in an ambitious and successful effort to vaccinate the American people”, he said.
Amidst simmering unease over the US refusal to lift an embargo on exports of raw materials for vaccines, which has hugely compromised production in India amid a severe COVID-19 crisis, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken has expressed support.
On Sunday morning, Blinken promised to “rapidly deploy additional support to the people of India” as the country fights a deadly wave of COVID-19.
India on 22 April reported a daily jump of 314,835 new coronavirus cases, surpassing the previous highest one-day rise reported by the US in January.
As per data released by the Health Ministry, 346,786 new cases and 2,624 deaths were reported in the last 24 hours.
Amidst the chaos and suffering unleashed by the pandemic several US lawmakers have voiced their concerns and calling upon the Biden administration to extend assistance to India.
A group of senators including Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, and nearly 100 members of Congress have sent a letter to the US president on the issue to waive the intellectual property rights of pharmaceutical companies, ANI reported.
The United States is among those countries that have blocked negotiations at the World Trade Organization involving a proposal led by India and South Africa to waive the IP rights of pharmaceutical companies to allow developing countries to produce vaccines. The letter urges Washington to change its position ahead of the next WTO meeting on 5 May to discuss the issue.
COVID-19 vaccine manufacturer Serum Institute of India CEO Adar Poonawalla had earlier appealed to Biden on Twitter to “lift the embargo of raw material exports”. Vaccine production capacity in the country has allegedly been cut in half due to the shortage of raw materials.
US Senator Ed Markey from Massachusetts tweeted on Thursday the need to help India in a time of crisis.
On Friday, State Department Spokesperson Ned Price referred a reporter’s questions on export controls to the Office of the United States Trade Representative (USTR).
“You asked about intellectual property and certain controls. That was — is within the purview of USTR. What I will say broadly is that the United States first and foremost is engaged in an ambitious and effective and, so far, successful effort to vaccinate the American people”, he said.
Price said the administration had a special responsibility to vaccinate Americans and that the nation had been hit harder by the pandemic than any other country. He emphasised that the virus “spreading anywhere, is a threat to people everywhere”, and for that reason it was “in the interests of the rest of the world to see Americans vaccinated”.
Price’s comments have been condemned by large number of Indian Americans.