US lawmakers urge Prez Biden to collaborate with India on Covid vaccines

The lawmakers urged the President to use the two vaccines which are a result of India-US collaborations for the global good and to end vaccine inequity through Corbevax and Covovax

PTIUpdated: Saturday, March 12, 2022, 12:24 PM IST
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Washington, D.C. (US): Members of America's influential Congressional Hispanic Caucus have urged US President Joe Biden to champion vaccine collaboration with India to bring an end to the COVID-19 pandemic.

In a letter dated March 10 to Biden, Texas delegation members and other members (Hispanic areas), requested the administration to lead distribution of low-cost vaccines to low-income nations with low vaccination rates to save millions of lives and bring an end to the worldwide pandemic.

The lawmakers urged the President to use the two vaccines which are a result of India-US collaborations for the global good and to end vaccine inequity through Corbevax and Covovax.

While the CORBEVAX vaccine is patent-free, another vaccine, developed by American biotechnology company Novavax, is in production in India and its export is planned to the COVAX facility.

"We think the United States has the opportunity to champion these vaccines created by American expertise for countries where vaccine inequality is taking its toll on some of the world's poorest and most vulnerable people," the lawmakers wrote.

"To this end, the US can partner with like-minded countries to ensure an equitable distribution of the COVID-19 vaccine. We request the White House to consider the use of these vaccines in partnership with countries across the globe, in a manner similar to the QUAD vaccine initiative and ensure an equitable distribution of the COVID-19 vaccine," they said.

The letter was signed by Congresswoman Veronica Escobar, who is Vice Chair, House Armed Services Committee and Democratic Women's Caucus; Congresswoman Sylvia Garcia, House Judiciary and House Financial Services Committees; Congresswoman Vicente Gonzalez, House Committee on Foreign Affairs and Congresswoman Jimmy Gomez, Vice Chair of the House Committee on Oversight and Reform and House Committee on Ways and Means.

This letter is in addition to the letters written by the Powerful Congressional Black Caucus which commended the government of India in its efforts to help Africa and Caribbean.

The letter signed by the Chair of the Caucus - Congresswoman Joyce Beatty also identified India as a major partner to end vaccine inequity in the developing world.

Other signatories to the letter were Congressman Michael San Nicolas, Juan Vargas, Jim Costa, Darren Soto, Ro Khanna and Linda Sanchez.

For more than a year, India's Ambassador to the US Taranjit Singh Sandhu and India's diplomatic missions have focused on engagement with US Congress, administration, think-tanks and industry on promoting India-US vaccine collaborations.

Congressional outreach has resulted in over 100 members of the House of Representatives supporting India's proposal for a TRIPS waiver at the WTO for COVID-19 vaccines.

Notably, there was also specific outreach to important Caucuses on this issue: Congressional Black Caucus, Congressional Hispanic Caucus and Congressional Caucus on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders.

Earlier, a letter from the Chairs of the three Caucus was also sent to President Biden, urging him to partner with countries to end vaccine inequity.

A vaccine roundtable was organised last month by the embassy with participation of billionaire American business magnate Bill Gates, WHO's Chief Scientist Soumya Swaminathan and Dr Peter Hotez among others.

The case for India-US vaccine collaborations to be used in third countries was also argued in a recent Houston Chronicle OpEd penned by Ambassador Sandhu.

The lawmakers wrote that the CORBEVAX vaccine was recently granted an emergency use authorisation from India's drug regulation agency.

Indian vaccine manufacturer Biological E Limited is now making 100 million doses per month and has already sold 300 million doses to the Indian government, the letter said.

"India is a shining example of the immense international potential CORBEVAX holds for low- and middle- income countries.

"We continue to ask the federal government and G7 nations for assistance to co-develop this recombinant protein vaccine with new partners in low-resource countries and we continue to ask the federal government and G7 nations for assistance to co-develop this recombinant protein vaccine with new partners in low-resource countries and should CORBEVAX file domestically," the lawmakers said.

They also urged the Food and Drug Administration to consider reviewing the vaccine for emergency use authorisation.

"Waiting to support the use of this vaccine on an international scale would jeopardise millions of lives, and we urge the administration to back the use of CORBEVAX globally," the lawmakers added.

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