The COVID-19 situation in India is incredibly dire:
India’s coronavirus second wave is rapidly sliding into a devastating crisis, with hospitals unbearably full, oxygen supplies running low, desperate people dying in line waiting to see doctors — and mounting evidence that the actual death toll is far higher than officially reported.
Each day, the government reports more than 300,000 new infections, a world record, and India is now seeing more new infections than any other country by far, almost half of all new cases in a global surge.
But experts say those numbers, however staggering, represent just a fraction of the real reach of the virus’s spread, which has thrown this country into emergency mode. Millions of people refuse to even step outside — their fear of catching the virus is that extreme. Accounts from around the country tell of the sick being left to gasp for air as they wait at chaotic hospitals that are running out of lifesaving oxygen.
A lot needs to be done to help, but this seems like an obvious first step:
The Biden administration must clear the path to sending our excess supply of vaccines to India and other countries in crisis. India is currently vaccinating around 2 to 3 million people per day, similar to daily records in the United States, but inadequate in a population four times our size. India has so far managed to vaccinate only about 10 percent of its population.
The United States has, according to some estimates, at least 30 million unused doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine that the FDA has not yet authorized. Given declining rates of vaccination among Americans, they seem unlikely to ever see domestic use. We should lend them to India now. Further, we should develop a plan to send excess supplies of Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccines abroad. The Serum Institute of India, the world’s largest manufacturer of vaccine doses, reported last week that it was unable to ramp up production due to U.S. export controls on raw materials. President Biden invoked the Defense Production Act and an associated export embargo in February to focus on domestic production. Given that we now have more vaccines than we need, it is time to lift this embargo so that India can produce the vaccines it badly needs.
There’s really no excuse for continuing to sit on those AstraZeneca vaccines. India seems like a logical destination but get them somewhere.