Biden administration pressuring India to restart vaccine exports: report
The Biden administration is reportedly pressing India to resume vaccine exports in an effort to mitigate the global spread of COVID-19.
According to a report from Axios, President Biden is in talks with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi to encourage the prompt release of vaccines to COVAX, the United Nations program to procure vaccines for less wealthy countries.
India, the world’s biggest producer of vaccines, was crucial to the U.N.’s global supply plans. However, it stopped exporting the AstraZeneca vaccine in March when the country experienced a surge in its own COVID-19 infections.
Should Modi agree to restart vaccine exports, he could receive a more significant role in an upcoming COVID-19 global summit in New York, the Axios report said.
A Biden administration official denied it was leveraging the summit in discussions regarding vaccine exports.
“We have regularly been communicating with [the] government of India in bilateral and multilateral channels to discuss vaccine supply and inquire about timeline for exports, and these conversations are not tied to a specific summit or engagement,” the anonymous official said to Axios.
Biden will not “strong-arm” Modi, who will be welcomed at the summit regardless of his decision on exporting vaccines, the Axios report said.
Modi’s approval ratings fell sharply earlier this year after he exported millions of vaccine doses while failing to foresee the second wave of the virus that later ravaged his country.
By late May, India had reported about 27 million infections and more than 300,000 deaths, though actual figures were likely far higher, according to The New York Times.
Global public health officials have criticized the U.S. for saving its vaccine doses for domestic booster shots rather than sharing those doses with the developing world, where many people haven’t received their first shot.