Breaking: US persists with ‘vaccine nationalism’ as coronavirus wreaks havoc in India
The United States and other Western nations have hoarded tens of millions of COVID-19 vaccine doses they may never use and the raw materials needed to make them as India becomes the epicenter of the disease.
Concerns are rising that an explosive outbreak in India, which recorded more than 400,000 new COVID-19 cases on Saturday, raises the risk of new virus mutations that could threaten the entire world.
The US-led Western states have been under mounting criticism for exercising so-called vaccine nationalism and not helping India, which has usually supported Western causes.
The US said last week that it will help India by sending items needed to manufacture vaccines as part of an aid package but has so far not delivered on its promise.
India is battling a devastating second wave of the virus, whereas the country’s new vaccination drive was hampered in some areas by shortages of the shots.
Several Indian states have run out of coronavirus vaccines amid a surge of new cases in the country.
Indian authorities on Saturday reported 401,993 new cases in the previous 24 hours, after 10 consecutive days of more than 300,000 daily cases. Deaths jumped by 3,523, taking the country’s total toll to 211,853, Reuters reported quoting the Indian federal health ministry.
The world’s second-most populous nation remains in deep crisis as hospitals and morgues are overwhelmed by the pandemic with medicine and oxygen in short supply and strict limits on movement imposed in the country’s largest cities.
“There is certainly potential for new variants to emerge in a country the size of India that could pose a threat elsewhere,” said Ramanan Laxminarayan, founder of the New Delhi and Washington-based Center for Disease Dynamics, Economics & Policy. “It is in the world’s interest to ensure that India exits the pandemic at the earliest, and vaccination is the only way.”
The United States has hoarded millions of COVID vaccine doses despite growing calls by international health experts for a coordinated global vaccine effort to tackle the pandemic.
The US is “sitting on 35-40 million doses of AstraZeneca vaccine Americans will never use,” Brown University School of Public Health’s Ashish Jha was quoted as saying by The Indian Express on Monday.
According to a Bloomberg report, an overwhelming majority of vaccines has been distributed in the richest countries that are vaccinating their citizens at a pace 25 times faster than the lowest income countries.
India and Brazil are particularly struggling as the number of COVID-19 victims continues to grow.