The US government must focus on vaccinating Americans, a State Department spokesperson has said as he ducked a question about Washington’s alleged rejection of India’s request for help to address its deadly Covid-19 surge.
Asked if an ongoing US ban on the export of raw vaccine materials to India would be lifted, State Department spokesperson Ned Price told reporters that US President Joe Biden’s administration is “first and foremost” engaged in the rollout of jabs to its own citizens.
“It’s of course not only in our interest to see Americans vaccinated; it’s in the interests of the rest of the world to see Americans vaccinated,” he told a news briefing on Thursday.
In the last week, India has seen a deadly surge in Covid-19 infections, with a world record of 332,000 new daily cases reported on Friday, as well as 2,263 deaths.
Price responded to claims Washington had rejected New Delhi’s calls for help by pointing out that the US has donated to the COVAX vaccine initiative and has also been hit hard by the pandemic itself.
Last week, Adar Poonawalla, the CEO of the Serum Institute of India, called on the US to lift the embargo on the export of key raw materials to other countries “so that vaccine production can ramp up.”
Respected @POTUS, if we are to truly unite in beating this virus, on behalf of the vaccine industry outside the U.S., I humbly request you to lift the embargo of raw material exports out of the U.S. so that vaccine production can ramp up. Your administration has the details. 🙏🙏
— Adar Poonawalla (@adarpoonawalla) April 16, 2021
The issue has also reportedly been brought up by India’s Ambassador to the US Taranjit Singh Sandhu in conversations with senior Biden officials, including US Secretary of State Antony Blinken.
At several points during the pandemic, the Biden and Trump administrations invoked the 1950 Defense Production Act to force pharmaceutical firms into ramping up vaccine production, and other companies into stepping up the manufacture of ventilators, tests, and protective equipment. The act also allowed both administrations to forbid the export of vaccines and other medicines necessary to fight Covid-19 at home.
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