File photo: PTI.

On telephone call, Biden assures Modi of vaccine raw materials

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US President Joe Biden on Monday expressed solidarity with India in its fight against COVID-19 and asserted that his country was determined to support its efforts by quickly deploying resources like therapeutics, ventilators and identifying sources of raw materials to be made available for the manufacture of Covishield vaccine.

Biden expressed the support of the US to India in a telephonic conversation with Prime Minister Narendra Modi, during which the two leaders discussed the pandemic situation in their countries, including India’s ongoing efforts to contain a second wave of COVID-19 through expedited vaccination efforts, and ensuring supply of critical medicines, therapeutics and medical equipment.

Modi also informed Biden about India’s initiative at the World Trade Organisation (WTO) for a relaxation in the norms of the Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) to ensure quick and affordable access to vaccines and medicines for developing countries, the statement said.

“Had a fruitful conversation with @POTUS @JoeBiden today. We discussed the evolving COVID situation in both countries in detail. I thanked President Biden for the support being provided by the United States to India.”

“My discussion with @POTUS @JoeBiden also underscored the importance of smooth and efficient supply chains of vaccine raw materials and medicines. India-US healthcare partnership can address the global challenge of COVID-19,” Modi tweeted.

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According to the statement, Modi conveyed his heartfelt appreciation for the offer of assistance and support from the US.

He mentioned India’s commitment to contain the COVID-19 pandemic globally through Vaccine Maitri, and its participation in COVAX and the Quad Vaccine Initiatives.

Modi underscored the need to ensure smooth and open supply chains of raw materials and inputs required for manufacture of vaccines, medicines, and therapeutics related to COVID-19.

Both leaders underlined the potential of the India-US partnership in vaccine development and supply to address the COVID-19 pandemic, and directed their respective officials to maintain close coordination and cooperation in their efforts in this domain, the statement said.

The two leaders agreed to remain in regular touch.

In Washington, the White House said President Biden pledged steadfast support of his entire administration for the people of India in its fight against COVID-19 pandemic.

“The President pledged America’s steadfast support for the people of India who have been impacted by the recent surge in COVID-19 cases,” the White House said in a readout of the call between Biden and Modi.

In response, the United States is providing a range of emergency assistance, including oxygen-related supplies, vaccine materials and therapeutics, the White House said.

“Prime Minister Modi expressed appreciation for the strong cooperation between both countries. The two leaders resolved that the United States and India will continue to stand shoulder-to-shoulder in the effort to protect our citizens and the health of our communities,” said the readout of the call.

The US president and his Vice President Kamala Harris had earlier assured India and its people of providing all assistance, including urgently sending necessary medical life-saving supplies and equipment, to help the country combat the deadly coronavirus crisis.

“Just as India sent assistance to the United States as our hospitals were strained early in the pandemic, we are determined to help India in its time of need,” Biden said in a tweet on Sunday.

The Biden administration had earlier come under criticism from several quarters, including from members and supporters of the Democratic Party, for its restrictions on the export of key raw materials for the manufacture of COVID-19 vaccine and for not releasing its surplus vaccines to India when the country is experiencing its worst-ever public health crisis.

Adar Poonawalla, the CEO of the Serum Institute of India (SII), which is manufacturing Covishield vaccine, had said earlier this month that the US needed to lift its embargo on raw material exports to help ramp up vaccine production.

The coronavirus situation remained grim in India with the daily COVID-19 infection tally and death toll touching new peaks in the past few days.

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India recorded 3,52,991 cases, the highest so far, taking the infection tally to 1,73,13,163 while active cases have crossed the 28-lakh mark, according to the Union Health Ministry data updated on Monday.

The death toll increased to 1,95,123 with a record 2,812 new fatalities, the data updated at 8 am on Monday showed.

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