The United States on Tuesday said that it is ready to ship its COVID-19 vaccines expeditiously when it has the green light from the Indian government which has told the Americans that it needs further time to review legal provisions related to accepting vaccine donations.
"We are ready to ship those vaccines expeditiously when we have a green light from the Government of India", State Department Spokesperson Ned Price told reporters at his daily news conference.
The Biden Administration has announced to share 80 million doses from its domestic stockpile with countries around the world, including India. In recent week, the US vaccines have landed in countries across the world, including Pakistan, Nepal, Bhutan and Bangladesh.
However, the vaccines to India could not be sent because the Indian government is yet to clear the necessary legal hurdles for such an emergency import.
"Before we can ship those doses, however, each country must complete its own domestic set of operational, of regulatory, and legal processes that are specific to each country. Now, India has determined that it needs further time to review legal provisions related to accepting vaccine donations," Price said.
"Once India works through its legal processes, our donations of vaccines to India will proceed expeditiously. We would need to refer you to the Government of India on the status of its discussions with COVAX, which, in this case, is helping to facilitate that delivery, he said.
"More broadly in the region, throughout South Asia, we're donating millions of vaccines to Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Nepal, the Maldives, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka. Roughly 40 million doses have been delivered worldwide so far, he added.
Responding to another question, Price said that the COVID-19 cooperation between the two countries is built on decades of successful partnership in health and biomedical research.
"We are partnering to strengthen the global response to COVID-19 on issues ranging from addressing infectious disease outbreaks to strengthening health systems to securing global supply chains, he said.
"We recently welcomed an initiative to collaborate through the International Center of Excellence in Research focused on infectious diseases, and in this case that includes COVID-19 and other emerging threats. We look forward to an overarching MOU, a memorandum of understanding, to enhance health cooperation beyond that, he added.
The two countries are further working on diagnostics, therapeutics, vaccines to combat the disease and to recognise the importance of manufacturing critical drugs during this time and to making them accessible globally.
"We are able to do that because India's pharmaceutical sector is strong, it's well-established, it has played a central role in manufacturing vaccines for global use over some time. We are pleased that US pharmaceutical companies in turn are coordinating with their Indian counterparts since the beginning of the pandemic, Price said.
"As you know, beyond this partnership, in the context of the Quad leaders' summit, there was an agreement to work with India to boost manufacturing of Covid vaccines that would support a safe and effective and eventually universal distribution of vaccines around the world," he said.
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