We are requesting the US government to lift the embargo on exporting raw materials needed to make vaccines for India.
India is facing a severe crisis due to the resurgence of Covid infections in the country. Since March infections have ratcheted up, setting new case records on a near-daily basis, with more than 152,000 cases recorded on April 11, the largest single-day tally for the country. Some hospitals in cities such as Pune and Mumbai are running out of beds, and some vaccination centers said they’ve run out of vaccines. Meanwhile, migrant workers have started leaving their jobs in the cities to return to their villages, fearing a national lockdown like the one in 2020 that left hundreds of thousands of migrant workers jobless and without public transport to go back home.
The United States in February invoked the Defense Production Act, which gives the power to control the distribution of products, to curb the export of raw materials critical for vaccine production. Vaccine makers and experts in India have been concerned that the use of the Defense Production Act by the U.S. to boost its own vaccine production was resulting in exports of critical raw materials being stopped. Adar Poonawalla, CEO of Serum Institute of India, told The Associated Press that pivoting away from suppliers in the U.S. could result in a delay of up to six months for the production of the COVID-19 vaccine developed by Novavax. Serum Institute and Novavax have inked a deal to supply 1.1 billion doses of the vaccine to COVAX to equitably distribute it across the globe.
While prioritizing the needs of our own population is important, this consideration must be balanced with the need to tackle this pandemic on a global level and the current ferocious resurgence of Covid 19 in India will eventually put the US recovery as well as the global recovery at risk. We respectfully request the Biden administration to assist India, its friendly partner, and the world’s largest democracy, emerge from this unprecedented setback during this battle.
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Prasenjit Sarkar has a Ph.D in Computer Science. His work experience includes working at IBM Research as well as founding and selling a startup in the big data space. He is passionate about education and giving back to society.