U.S. Striving to Help India: White House Officials

MONDAY, May 3, 2021 (HealthDay News) -- The Biden administration says it's doing all it can to help India cope with it's COVID-19 crisis. The country is experiencing exploding case numbers, with more than 400,000 new cases added on Saturday alone.

In response to criticism that the United States should be taking quicker action -- such as waiving patent rights on vaccines -- White House officials appeared on several political shows Sunday to highlight aid the U.S. has already delivered to India, including sending the first planeloads of medical supplies and oxygen, and diverting raw materials for vaccines to India, the Washington Post reported.

"In a crisis of this speed and ferocity, we always wish we could move faster and do more. And we're proud of what we've done so far," national security adviser Jake Sullivan said on ABC's "This Week."

President Biden spoke with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi last Monday and vowed to provide oxygen, personal protective equipment and other medical supplies to the beleaguered country.

"We are continuing to work to source additional critical materials to move them as fast as we can, both directly from the United States and also galvanizing partners around the world," Sullivan said, the Post reported.

But Modi and other world leaders have urged the United States to waive drug company patent protections on vaccines, because such a move would allow countries to speed up vaccine production.

"If a temporary waiver to patents cannot be issued now, during these unprecedented times, when will be the right time?" Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the director general of the World Health Organization, said on Twitter in March. "Solidarity is the only way out."

The United States has said it will share up to 60 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine -- not approved for use domestically -- with other countries. But the doses are still on order, not yet produced.

"To be clear, there isn't some huge warehouse filled with AstraZeneca vaccines that we can just release at a moment's notice," Anita Dunn, a senior adviser to Biden said on CNN's "State of the Union." "As soon as it is ready to be shared with the world, we plan to share it."

Speaking Sunday on NBC's "Meet the Press," Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) said the United States has an obligation to share vaccines with the rest of the world, particularly in poorer countries, more quickly.

"Not only do we have a moral responsibility to help the rest of the world, it's in our own self-interest because if this pandemic continues to spread in other countries, it's going to come back and bite us at one point or another," Sanders said.

"I think what we have got to say right now to the drug companies, when millions of lives are at stake around the world, is, 'Yes, allow other countries to have these intellectual property rights so that they can produce the vaccines that are desperately needed in poor countries,' " Sanders said.

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