The World Responds to India’s Misery Name

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The World Responds to India's Distress Call

NEW DELHI – Oxygen Generators from Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. Raw material for coronavirus vaccines from the USA. Millions in cash from companies run by Indo-American businesspeople.

As the second wave of the pandemic hit India, the world comes to the rescue.

However, it is unlikely that enough holes will be poked in India's declining health system to completely stop the deadly crisis that is afoot, and the health emergency is having a global impact on new infections worldwide as well as countries opting for the AstraZeneca vaccine rely on India.

"It's a desperate situation out there," said Dr. Ramanan Laxminarayan, the founder and director of the Center for Disease Dynamics, Economics and Politics.

In the early months of 2021, Prime Minister Narendra Modi's government pretended the coronavirus battle had been won. It hosted major campaign events and allowed thousands to gather for a Hindu religious festival.

Now Mr Modi is adopting a much more sober tone. He said on a nationwide radio address on Sunday that India had been "shaken" by a "storm".

Patients are suffocating in the capital, New Delhi and other cities, because the hospitals have run out of oxygen. Frenzied relatives have posted on social media for notices of intensive care beds and experimental drugs. Funeral pyres have spilled over to parking lots and city parks.

Now, Mr Modi appears to be looking to the rest of the world to help India quell its seemingly unstoppable coronavirus wave.

A global surge in coronavirus, largely caused by the devastation in India, continues to break daily records and is widespread in much of the world, even as vaccinations keep increasing in rich countries. More than a billion shots have now been fired worldwide.

According to a New York Times database, the seven-day global mean of new cases on Sunday was 774,404, above the peak in the last global surge in January. Despite the number of shots around the world, far too few of the nearly eight billion people around the world were vaccinated to slow the spread of the virus.

Vaccinations were highly concentrated in affluent countries: 82 percent of vaccinations worldwide were given in high- and middle-income countries, according to the Our World in Data project. Only 0.2 percent of the doses were given in low-income countries.

What You Need To Know About The Johnson & Johnson Vaccine Break In The United States

    • On April 23, an advisory panel to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention voted to lift a hiatus on Johnson & Johnson Covid vaccine and put a label on an extremely rare but potentially dangerous bleeding disorder.
    • Federal health officials are expected to officially recommend states lift the hiatus.
    • The vaccine was recently discontinued after reports of a rare bleeding disorder surfaced in six women who received the vaccine.
    • The overall risk of developing the disorder is extremely low. Women between the ages of 30 and 39 appear to be most at risk at 11.8 cases per million doses. There were seven cases per million doses in women between 18 and 49 years of age.
    • Almost eight million doses of the vaccine have now been given. There was less than one case per million doses in men and women aged 50 and over.
    • Johnson & Johnson had also decided to postpone the launch of its vaccine in Europe for similar reasons, but later decided to continue the campaign after the European Union Medicines Agency announced the addition of a warning. South Africa, devastated by a contagious variant of the virus, also stopped using the vaccine, but later continued to use it.

On Monday, India broke the world record for daily coronavirus infections for the fifth year in a row, reporting nearly 353,000 new cases. And it added 2,812 deaths to its total of more than 195,000, which experts say could be hugely outnumbered.

Earlier this month, Adar Poonawalla, the executive director of the Serum Institute of India, the world's largest vaccine maker, appealed directly to President Biden on Twitter, telling him to lift the embargo on raw materials used to manufacture Covid-19 vaccinations.

Tim Manning, the White House supply coordinator for Covid-19, said on Twitter Monday that the U.S. Defense Production Act, which Mr Biden cited in March, was not an embargo.

"Businesses can export," tweeted Manning. "In fact, companies that supply our vaccine manufacture export their products all over the world."

"There is more manufacturing going on around the world than suppliers can support," he added.

Amid mounting pressure, the White House said on Sunday that it had removed barriers to exporting raw materials for vaccines and would also provide India with therapeutics, test kits, ventilators and personal protective equipment.

Updated

April 26, 2021, 11:15 p.m. ET

"Just as India sent aid to the US because our hospitals were congested at the start of the pandemic, we are determined to help India in its need," Biden said on Twitter.

The Biden government said Monday that it would share up to 60 million AstraZeneca cans from its inventory with other countries over the coming months, provided they complete a safety clearance by the Food and Drug Administration.

The US surgeon general Dr. Vivek Murthy, who announced the plan on Twitter, did not specify which countries would receive these cans.

Members of Congress had campaigned for Mr. Biden to donate the AstraZeneca vaccine to India as there is no shortage for Americans who want to be vaccinated with the three emergency vaccines approved there.

The level of support the President is offering India could lay the foundation for a biden-modi relationship at a time when both the United States and China are battling for influence over India and better access to its vast market.

Mr Biden's response to India during the crisis has been scrutinized, raising questions about how far the administration has actually moved from former President Donald J. Trump's "America First" foreign policy.

The Serum Institute did not answer questions about the White House announcement.

Between the bouts of the pandemic, when Mr Modi's government believed the worst was behind it, India adopted a vaccine diplomacy policy that sold or donated 66.4 million doses.

In late March, when the number of domestic cases began to rise, Mr Modi suddenly stopped exports and crippled vaccination campaigns in other countries that relied on vaccines from India.

The Indian government is now withholding nearly all 2.4 million doses made daily by the Serum Institute, one of the world's largest manufacturers of the AstraZeneca vaccine. So far, only the US has offered to remedy part of the shortage.

Even so, vaccine shortages have hampered India's efforts to protect its people. Only about 2 percent of the population were fully vaccinated.

Several other countries have also stepped up to offer assistance to India.

The UK has pledged medical equipment, including 495 oxygen concentrators (devices that extract oxygen from ambient air and make it available to patients) and 140 ventilators. France and Australia are considering supplying oxygen. Even Pakistan, with which India has fought several wars and maintains cool relations, has offered x-ray machines, ventilators and other aids, said its foreign minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi.

Two Indian-American businesspeople – Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella and Google CEO Sundar Pichai – have both announced that their companies will be providing financial support to India.

"Devastated by the worsening Covid crisis in India," Pichai wrote on Twitter and pledged $ 18 million for aid groups working in the country.

Indian officials have also made direct inquiries from other countries. Subrahmanyam Jaishankar, India's foreign minister, tweeted last week about his meeting with Margrethe Vestager, the European Commission's executive vice-president who oversees digital policies. On Sunday the European Union announced that it would provide oxygen and medicines.

"The EU. Is pooling resources to respond quickly to India's request for support through the E.U. Civil Protection Mechanism," said Ursula von der Leyen, President of the European Commission, on Twitter.

Mr. Jaishankar's spokesman did not respond to a request for comment on the aid promised to India, but experts said there was only so much there could be done.

In many cases, India has lagged behind other countries in its preventative measures and ability to expand care, testing resources like oxygen that reach patients just in time or not at all.

"Early and aggressive investment was absolutely necessary," said Krishna Udayakumar, associate professor of global health and director of the Duke Global Health Innovation Center.

Unlike the US and UK, which signed pre-purchase agreements for millions of doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine as of last May, India waited until January and then only bought 15.5 million doses made by Serum and pharmaceutical company Bharat Biotech for Ocean a country of nearly 1.4 billion people.

India had already announced last September, at the height of the first wave, that it would rely heavily on the Russian vaccine Sputnik V and sign a contract to buy 100 million doses. However, Sputnik will not be available in India until next month at the earliest.

If India were to dramatically increase its vaccine manufacturing capacity and grant emergency approval to other vaccine manufacturers, it could potentially contain the worst of the second wave effects.

"This is the only long-term solution," said Dr. Laxminarayan. "India has the ability to do this if the country chooses."

Rebecca Robbins contributed to the coverage.

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