India, which had not wasted time in despatching hydroxychloroquine (HCQ) to the United States that was in distress last year during the Covid-19 outbreak, is hopeful the ally will soon lift the ban on the export of vaccine raw materials. The ban threatens to slow India’s inoculation drive, two Indian government sources said on 19 April, after the foreign ministers of the two nations spoke.
An official said the Joe Biden administration had told India it was considering New Delhi’s request for a lifting of the ban. The US administration said it would act upon the request “at the earliest”.
Indian Minister of External Affairs Subrahmanyam Jaishankar tweeted that US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and he had discussed, among other things, “issues pertaining to our health cooperation”.
The Indian foreign ministry declined to elaborate on the statement. The US State Department confirmed the two diplomats discussed Covid-19, but did not give details.
India is currently facing the world’s worst surge in coronavirus infections, which has led to a clamour for vaccines.
The country with the world’s biggest vaccine-making capacity has also stopped major exports to meet domestic demand.
Jaishankar confirmed on Monday that the government was trying to address the raw materials matter but that it was important for India to meet its export commitments too. “I am pushing other countries, particularly some big countries, saying ‘Look, please keep the raw materials flowing for the vaccines to be made in India’,” he said, without naming any country.
“Can I … go around the world and tell people ‘Guys keep your supply chain flowing towards me … but I am not going to give you the vaccine?'”
Washington has invoked the Defense Production Act to preserve vaccine raw materials for its own companies, but the Serum Institute of India (SII), the world’s biggest vaccine maker, has said this went against the global goal of sharing vaccines equitably.
Asked about the restrictions on exports, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said inequities in access to vaccines were “completely unacceptable”, but declined to detail additional US action to address that. SII is licensed to make the AstraZeneca shot as well another developed by US company Novavax.