The Biden administration is quietly pressuring India to restart vaccine exports if it plans to offer a high-profile role to Prime Minister Narendra Modi at an upcoming COVID-19 global summit in New York sources with direct knowledge if he agrees to release vaccines soon. High level discussions told Nerdshala.
why it matters: India is the largest vaccine manufacturer in the world. In March, Modi halted exports of the AstraZeneca vaccine – one of the cheapest on the market – as the virus was ravaging his own population.
- Convincing Modi to renew its vaccine supply to the world through COVAX, the global immunization organization – is a key part of the Biden administration’s strategy to reduce the international spread of the virus.
- It is in America’s vital interest to vaccinate the developing world as soon as possible, as the uncontrolled spread of the virus inevitably creates more dangerous forms.
An administration official admitted to discussing the export of the vaccine But denied that they were tied to Modi’s upcoming involvement.
- “we communicate regularly [the] Indian government to discuss vaccine supply in bilateral and multilateral channels and inquire about timelines for exports, and these talks are not tied to a specific summit or engagement,” the US official said on condition of anonymity. said.
Backstory: The US effectively banned exports of its own vaccine for months until it had enough supplies for all Americans. It also reserves hundreds of millions of doses for boosters, complicating its status as a proponent of dose-sharing.
- Modi’s government faced internal criticism for allowing exports of millions of supplements before the second wave emerged, which it failed to anticipate.
- Now, six months later, more than half of India’s eligible population has received at least one shot, according to official figures, to make it more palatable to resume exports.
Behind the lines: Biden officials understand that vaccine diplomacy is a delicate subject with Indians. In internal meetings, high-ranking Biden officials decided to take a softer stance towards Modi.
- Biden plans to host a COVID-19 summit with Surgeon General Vivek Murthy during next week’s UN General Assembly meetings hint The President will make some new announcements before the summit.
- Biden’s allies decided against trying to bolster Modi by conditioning his participation on his desire to release the COVAX vaccine. According to one of the sources, he will be welcomed regardless of his decision.
- Modi has also been invited to the White House summit with leaders of Japan and Australia on September 24.
big picture: COVAX, a United Nations-backed program aimed at addressing coronavirus vaccine disparity, has struggled to reach its goals.
- Last week, it announced that only 1.425 billion doses were expected to be available by the end of this year, down from the 1.9 billion the organization expected would be in an estimate provided in June.
- The World Health Organization (WHO) has been criticizing wealthy countries such as the United States for prioritizing booster shots before increasing initial donations for residents in low-income countries.
- A White House official said the United States has already donated 140 million doses and promised to buy 500 million doses from Pfizer for COVAX distribution.
go in: Officials want summit participating countries to pledge that COVAX should be the main vehicle for distributing vaccines.
- China is being invited, despite failing to fully cooperate with the international investigation into the origins of COVID-19, sources said.
- Officials also plan to invite Russia, which has largely stayed away from the COVAX initiative.
- Team Biden aims to convince wealthy countries to donate any surplus supplies – not sell them.