India — The United States on Tuesday said that it remembers “India’s generosity” in the early days of the pandemic and will hence be delivering raw materials to the Serum Institute of India (SII) for the production of the Oxford-AstraZeneca Covishield vaccine, with an aim to help India tide over the current wave of the coronavirus disease.
In a White House press briefing earlier this day, senior officials of the Biden-Harris administration said that the United States was “diverting” its own order of raw materials to the Serum Institute in light of the current crisis as this was the “most effective and rapid step” that could be taken at this stage to provide support.
“As requested by the Government of India, we will be providing raw materials for the production of the AstraZeneca Covishield vaccine at the Serum Institute of India,” a senior administration official said, elaborating on the “complexities of the global supply chain” and the exact nature of the assistance that the US is providing to India.
“Given that there is not enough of the supply for the entire global manufacturing effort and in light of the current crisis, we, the United States, are diverting our order to India. So, I want to be clear here that we did not intervene with the manufacturer to make them fill the Serum Institute’s order; we don’t have that power. Instead, what we are doing is diverting our own order of our own supplies to the Serum Institute for their manufacturing,” the official said.
Providing further details, the senior administration official said that the Defense Production Act (DPA) in the US requires American companies to prioritise US government contracts over others. “But what it does not mean is an export ban or a de facto ban or an embargo or any restrictions on sales to any other outside clients or customers anywhere. Companies are able to export however they need,” he said.
Adding that the DPA doesn’t cause any shortages in global supplies, the official pointed out that the US government doesn’t even have the power to intervene with the manufacturing companies’ orders. Hence, it was diverting its own supplies to India in view of the recent surge in Covid-19.
The official further said that the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) will be providing additional technical assistance and materials to strengthen vaccine communications between India and the US and support “vaccine readiness at the national and sub-national levels.”
US experts, however, believe that the Biden administration can do more. The US Chamber of Commerce had earlier last week called on the White House to release millions of AstraZeneca vaccine doses from its stockpile, which the US is unlikely to use because Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson shots will more than meet its needs. The US has also not authorised the AstraZeneca shot.