NEW DELHI: As India’s Covid crisis explodes, the US delivered a blow to India’s vaccination programme, indicating it would prioritise its own citizens before addressing India’s request for vaccine components.
Responding to journalists, the US State Department spokesperson said, “we have a special responsibility to the American people”.
“It’s of course not only in our interest to see Americans vaccinated; it’s in the interests of the rest of the world to see Americans vaccinated.” The implied subtext was that Indians’ vaccination was less important.
Foreign minister S Jaishankar has held a couple of rounds of discussions with his counterpart Anthony Blinken on the easing of the US export embargo. Foreign secretary Harsh Shringla has held similar discussions with Wendy Sherman, US deputy secretary.
Washington sources said some US Congressmen have also expressed support. But that this is going to be a difficult one, is now clear.
Meanwhile, German chancellor Angela Merkel expressed doubts about helping India develop its pharma sector, especially as India has tightened its pharma exports in the context of the ongoing Covid crisis.
Merkel was quoted as saying by Politico, “We now have a situation with India where, in connection with the emergency situation of the pandemic, we are worried whether the pharmaceutical products will still come to us,” observed Merkel.
“Of course, we have only allowed India to become such a large pharmaceutical producer in the first place, also from the European side, in the expectation that this should then also be complied with. If that is not the case now, we will have to rethink.” Indicating that Germany might rethink its own industrial policies Merkel said, “The truth is, we haven’t treated our pharmaceutical industry so well for many years.”
On Thursday, John Nkengasong, director of the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, warned India against blocking vaccine exports to Africa under the COVAX program.
“If you finish vaccinating your people before Africa or other parts of the world, you have not done yourself any justice because variants will emerge and undermine your own vaccination efforts“ Nkengasong said.
Most countries in Africa haven’t even begun their vaccinations, while many others have been reported as saying they don’t know whether they would be able to get their second jab at all.