The U.S. will distribute up to 60 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines to AstraZeneca in India and other countries, according to Biden administration officials.
The move follows a call on Monday morning between President Joe Biden and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
“Our two countries are suffering terribly,” a senior Biden administration official said in a background briefing this afternoon about the decision to send oxygen, drugs, and supplies to produce vaccine in India. “We remember India’s generosity towards us in the first period of the pandemic.”
The announcement comes as one in every 3 COVID-19 cases recorded each day now in India. In April, the Indian outbreak saw a record high of cases with multiple hospitals and oxygen supplies. About 2,500 deaths a day are now reported there, most seen as an undercount 5 to 10 times higher.
National security officials in the Biden administration say the sharp surge in cases in India and the ongoing pandemic for whatever reason are releasing doses from U.S. stockpiles of gunfire. Supplies of other vaccines are expected to be available to every adult in the United States by June.
An AstraZeneca vaccine has been approved in India but is still awaiting an FDA approval in the US. The company has not formally applied for this authorization. A safety review of those extracts will be done by the FDA before shipment. Ten million doses are available now, and another 50 million are in production. The U.S. previously lent 4 million AstraZeneca shots to Mexico and Canada.
“In short, it’s good news but it’s been a long time coming,” said Lawrence Gostin of the O’Neill Institute for National and Global Health Law at Georgetown University. “What we’re seeing, however, are two types of vaccines – one for the developed world and one for the poor. AstraZeneca is not licensed in the United States, so it could be given. But the U.S. is gathering more effective vaccines like The mRNA vaccines. I hope the United States will start providing doses of all vaccine stocks. This is good practice, but it is also in our interest. “
Administration officials said the U.S. would consider sharing more vaccines as the country’s supplies grow and the population is vaccinated.
Over the weekend, the European Union launched a medical assistance program to offer India oxygen and medical supplies, while Singapore and Saudi Arabia also sent oxygen. Russia has also said it will fly medical aid to India. The White House announced on Sunday that it was sending fans and protective equipment in India.
Peter Aldhous contributed to reporting this story.