WASHINGTON: Lamenting that the US has allocated only 7.5 million doses of COVID vaccines to India, a top Indian-American Congressman has urged the Biden administration to do more by expanding its global vaccine aid programme to it at a time when the world faces the threat of new, vaccine-resistant coronavirus variants.
Congressman Raja Krishnamoorthi's statement came on a day when the White House said it is "eager" to continue the partnership with India in the fight against coronavirus and wants to provide assistance, including vaccines.
Krishnamoorthi has secured the support of 116 members of Congress on his ongoing effort to expand the US global vaccine aid programmes to India and other nations. "The US has so far only allocated 7.5 million vaccine doses for India," he said.
"I'm once again urging President (Joe) Biden and my colleagues in the Congress to come together and pass the NOVID (Nullifying Opportunities for Variants to Infect and Decimate) Act into law to end this pandemic for good because, so long as outbreaks continue in any nation, the entire world faces the threat of new, vaccine-resistant variants," Krishnamoorthi said in a statement.
"As we approach Indian Independence Day, we need to declare our independence from COVID by creating the global partnership necessary to produce and deliver the billions of vaccines necessary to truly bring this pandemic to an end," the Democratic Party lawmaker said.
"Meeting those goals will demand the continued cooperation of the world's leading democracies and producers of these life-saving vaccines, including the United States and India," Krishnamoorthi added.
Under the NOVID Act, which Congressman Raja Krishnamoorthi, Senators Jeff Merkley and Elizabeth Warren introduced with Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal, the US will establish the Pandemic Preparedness and Response Programme (PanPReP) to oversee the global health response to the pandemic.
PanPReP will coordinate efforts between the Department of State, the United States Agency for International Development, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Food and Drug Administration, Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority, Health Resources and Services Administration, Department of Defence, the Peace Corps, and the Department of Labor.
The programme will also be responsible for coordinating the US Government response with international non-governmental organisations, development banks and civil society as well as foreign governments.
After the pandemic, the programme will shift to protect against future pandemics by coordinating a global disease surveillance network to identify and stop pandemic-potential pathogens before they spread uncontrollably.
The bill will authorise spending of USD 34 billion -- USD 25 billion to scale manufacturing capacity and produce 8 billion vaccine doses; USD 8.5 billion to cover the cost of end-to-end delivery of enough vaccines to immunise 60 per cent of the populations in 92 COVAX countries; and USD 500 million to establish a global disease surveillance network to protect against future pandemics.
COVAX is a worldwide initiative aimed at equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines directed by Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations, and the World Health Organisation.
COVAX provides vaccines to the developing world. A total of 92 low- and middle-income countries are eligible to receive COVID-19 vaccines through the COVAX mechanism.