US President Joe Biden said on Tuesday he is intent on sending coronavirus vaccines to India as that country grapples with an unprecedented surge in cases.
The announcement comes after the US said it would release its stockpile of 60 million AstraZeneca vaccines for intentional distribution following safety inspections by health authorities.
The doses represent the entire US stock of the Astra Zeneca vaccine, which has not yet been granted emergency use approval in the country as the US rolls out other vaccines from Moderna, Pfizer-BioNTech and Johnson and Johnson.
Biden did not specify which vaccines he is considering to send, but said he discussed with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi “when we’ll be able to send actual vaccines to India, which would be my intention to do.”
“The problem is right now we have to make sure we have other vaccines like Novavax and others coming on probably, and I think we’ll be in a position to share vaccines as well as know-how with other countries who are in real need,” he told reporters at the White House.
“That’s the hope and expectation, and I might add when we were in a bind at the very beginning India helped us,” he added, alluding to India’s aid that was pivotal during the early days of the US outbreak.
In the interim, Biden said the US is sending mechanical parts India needs to build a vaccine, as well as therapeutics like Remdesivir to help the Indian health care system cope with the virus surge.
India’s caseload rose to more than 17 million and its death toll is approaching 200,000 as it registered record-breaking infection totals for five straight days. There were more than 323,000 cases alone on Monday, according to Johns Hopkins University data.
The dramatic increase in cases has prompted shortages of oxygen, hospital beds and life-saving drugs.
The country received its first emergency medical supplies from abroad on Tuesday with the UK shipment consisting of 100 ventilators and 95 oxygen concentrators.