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India will be a ‘significant recipient’ of US vaccines, says Amb Sandhu

India will be a “significant recipient” of US vaccines, the country’s envoy here has said as President Joe Biden announced details of his administration’s decision to send 25 million COVID-19 shots to countries across the globe.

US President Joe Biden on Wednesday announced that the US will allocate 75 per cent – nearly 1.9 crore of the first tranche of 2.5 crore doses – of unused COVID-19 vaccines from its stockpile through the UN-backed COVAX global vaccine sharing programme to countries in South and Southeast Asia as well as Africa.

The move is part of his administration’s framework for sharing 80 million (8 crore) vaccines globally by the end of June.

According to a White House fact sheet, nearly 19 million vaccines will be shared through COVAX.

Of these approximately six million for South and Central America to the following countries: Brazil, Argentina, Colombia, Costa Rica, Peru, Ecuador, Paraguay, Bolivia, Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Panama, Haiti, and other Caribbean Community (CARICOM) countries, as well as the Dominican Republic.

Approximately seven million for Asia to the following countries: India, Nepal, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Afghanistan, Maldives, Malaysia, Philippines, Vietnam, Indonesia, Thailand, Laos, Papua New Guinea, Taiwan, and the Pacific Islands, it said.

India will be a significant recipient of US vaccines as India has been included in both the identified categories in the allocation announced today- direct supply to neighbours and partner countries, and under the COVAX initiative, India’s Ambassador to the US, Taranjit Singh Sandhu, told PTI.

Vice President Kamala Harris personally made a call to Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Thursday to inform him about the administration’s decision.

I deeply appreciate the assurance of vaccine supplies to India as part of the US Strategy for Global Vaccine Sharing. I also thanked her for all the support and solidarity from the US government, businesses and Indian diaspora, the prime minister said in a tweet.

Officials in New Delhi said that Modi and Harris discussed ongoing efforts to strengthen the health supply chain between the US and India, including in the area of vaccine manufacturing. They highlighted the potential of the India-US partnership as well as the QUAD vaccine initiative in addressing the long-term health impact of the pandemic.

The prime minister also said he hopes to welcome Vice President Harris in India soon after the normalisation of the global health situation.

Sandhu described the phone call as an important conversation focusing on vaccines, post-Covid global health and economic recovery.

The removal of the Defence Production Act priority ratings would further strengthen vaccine supply chains including for manufacturers AstraZeneca and Novavax, Sandhu said, reflecting on other important decisions taken by the Biden administration.

These developments are reflective of the firm commitment of the leadership of both India and US to work in partnership on global issues, Sandhu told PTI.

Sandhu on Thursday also had a substantive discussion with Surgeon General Dr Vivek Murthy.

We discussed India US cooperation to contain the global pandemic, including in vaccines, and potential collaborations to ensure affordable healthcare, the Ambassador said in a tweet.

India is currently witnessing the second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic. So far, the country has recorded over 2,84,41,986 confirmed COVID-19 cases, including 3,37,989 deaths.

The Biden administration had been under pressure to send the excess COVID-19 vaccines with the US to nations like India, which are facing severe vaccine shortages.

External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar, who visited the US last month, also said that the COVID-19 pandemic and vaccines were an important part of his discussions in the US.

He also said the endeavour was to expand the production of vaccines in India with assistance from the United States.

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