The Biden administration will deploy additional supplies and support to India as the country deals with a spike in coronavirus cases, the White House announced on Sunday.
“To help treat Covid-19 patients and protect front-line health workers in India, the United States has identified supplies of therapeutics, rapid diagnostic test kits, ventilators, and Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) that will immediately be made available for India. The United States also is pursuing options to provide oxygen generation and related supplies on an urgent basis,” a readout of a call between the two countries’ national security advisers said, in part.
India reported 349,691 new cases Saturday, the fourth day in a row the country has set a world record for daily infections, according to government and scientific tallies.
During the call between US national security adviser Jake Sullivan and his Indian counterpart, Ajit Doval, Sullivan expressed “deep sympathy for the people of India following the recent spike in Covid-19 cases.”
“Just as India sent assistance to the United States as our hospitals were strained early in the pandemic, the United States is determined to help India in its time of need,” the readout said.
The release went on to say that the US has identified “specific raw material urgently required for Indian manufacture of the Covishield vaccine that will immediately be made available for India.”
The White House also announced that the US Development Finance Corporation will fund a “substantial expansion of manufacturing capability for BioE, the vaccine manufacturer in India, enabling BioE to ramp up to produce at least 1 billion doses of Covid-19 vaccines by the end of 2022.”
The US will also send an “expert team of public health advisors from the Center for Disease Control (CDC) and USAID to work in close collaboration with the US embassy, India’s health ministries, and India’s Epidemic Intelligence Service staff,” according to the White House.
National Security Council officials held meetings over the weekend on how to aid the country, and the Health and Human Services Department did as well, according to a source familiar. Discussions have revolved around providing more vaccine components and materials for administering vaccines, in addition to oxygen and personal protective equipment.
Dr. Anthony Fauci described those discussions in an interview Sunday on ABC’s “This Week with George Stephanopoulos,” saying, “Right now, even as we speak, George, there’s discussions about really ramping up what we can do on the ground – oxygen supplies, drugs, tests, PPE, as well as taking a look in the intermediate and long run about how can get vaccines to these individuals.”
But the latest statement from Biden’s national security adviser did not mention sharing AstraZeneca vaccine doses, of which the US has tens of millions stockpiled. The doses have gone unused, with the exception of a few million sent to Canada and Mexico, because AstraZeneca has not been granted emergency use authorization by the US Food and Drug Administration yet. The administration has faced pressure to release AstraZeneca vaccines to India. A person familiar with the matter said the issue has come up in meetings but a final decision is still up in the air.
Andy Slavitt, the White House senior adviser for Covid response, would not say Sunday whether the US plans to send vaccines to India.
“When we make decisions on what we’re gonna do with additional vaccines, about exporting them, we’ll announce them,” he told CNN’s Pamela Brown on “Newsroom.” “We’re evaluating all these options.”
In March, the US loaned around four million doses of AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccines to Mexico and Canada.
Fauci said in his interview that sending vaccines is a possibility. Currently, the CDC is consulting with the country and providing technical assistance.
“I think that’s going to be something that is up for active consideration,” he said. “We really do need to do more. I don’t think you can walk away from that. And we are.”
Fauci told Reuters earlier this month that the US likely won’t need the AstraZeneca vaccine even if it is authorized for emergency use.
This story has been updated with additional developments Sunday.