U.S. Consulting With India on Virus But Isn’t Offering Vaccines
File photo of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and U.S. President Joe Biden. (Source: PMO India)

U.S. Consulting With India on Virus But Isn’t Offering Vaccines

The U.S. is consulting with India about a surge in coronavirus cases and deaths in the country but so far isn’t offering to share vaccines.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is providing technical assistance to India as the coronavirus pandemic spreads rapidly in the country, Anthony Fauci, the head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said at a briefing Friday for reporters.

India reported 332,730 cases on Friday alone, breaking a global record that the country had set only a day earlier. Yet there are signs that the actual death toll could be even higher, as bodies pile up at crematoriums and burial grounds around the country.

The outbreak in India adds to pressure on President Joe Biden to provide vaccines to other countries. Biden has said the U.S. won’t begin sending doses abroad until it has sufficient supply at home.

The ultimate solution is sharing vaccines with India, said Fauci, . It’s not yet clear how effective vaccines are against variants there, said Fauci, who also is a Covid-19 adviser to Biden.

“But we’re assuming, clearly, that they need vaccines,” Fauci said. “It is a dire situation that we’re trying to help in any way we can. We just have to see how things go and obviously they need to get their people vaccinated because that’s the only way we’re going to turn that around.”

India is a producer of AstraZeneca Plc’s vaccine, which it has been exporting.

The U.S. is accumulating a stockpile of AstraZeneca shots, even though that vaccine isn’t yet authorized for use there. The company had been on pace to produce roughly 50 million doses by the end of this month, including 4.2 million already loaned to Mexico and Canada.

Jeff Zients, Biden’s Covid response coordinator, said the U.S. is committed to global vaccination efforts, including by pledging up to $4 billion for the Covax effort to provide shots to low-income nations. He cited an initiative announced last month by the U.S., India, Japan and Australia to boost vaccine manufacturing in those four so-called “Quad” countries through 2021 and 2022.

However, he declined to say when the U.S. would share doses, including those it has already but can’t yet use on its own. “It’s why we made the biggest investment in Covax and we are committed to sharing vaccine supply. As our confidence around our supply increases, we will explore those options,” Zients said.

At a separate briefing, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said the U.S. is in talks with Indian officials to find ways to help and previously provided supplies such as ventilators.

“We are in touch with them at a range of levels about how we can help them get through this,” she said.

Fauci said the surge in India shows U.S. vaccinations alone won’t quash a pandemic, where the virus can spread widely in other nations before mutating -- potentially leading more lethal versions to once again reach the U.S.

“I think what this is telling us, in Africa and in India, that when you have a global pandemic, it is a global pandemic, and there are no countries that are really safe from it,” Fauci said.

©2021 Bloomberg L.P.

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