April 30, 2021

COVID-19 in India

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“India’s total COVID-19 cases passed 18 million on Thursday after another world record number of daily infections, as gravediggers worked around the clock to bury victims and hundreds more were cremated in makeshift pyres in parks and parking lots… The world's second most populous nation is in deep crisis, with hospitals and morgues overwhelmed.” Reuters

“The United States is discussing when it could begin sending COVID-19 vaccines to India and other countries, even as it sends therapeutics and other equipment to India amid a surge in cases there, President Joe Biden [said] on Tuesday.” Reuters

Both sides support sending excess vaccines and other supplies to India:

Helping India is the right thing to do… The longer the pandemic rages in India, the greater the chance that it will develop mutant strains more difficult to treat with existing vaccines. Many experts believe that India has been hit particularly hard by a so-called double-mutant that is easier to transmit and may also be deadlier. Several countries have blocked direct air travel to India, but it’s impossible to wall off the world from virus strains circulating there…

“India’s pharmaceutical industry is also a vital part of the solution to the pandemic problem in other poor countries in Asia, Africa and Latin America. It accounts for over half of global vaccine manufacturing and its low-cost generics are widely used throughout the developing world. The sooner India gets back on its feet, the sooner it will be able to help other nations struggling with the virus.”
Sadanand Dhume, Wall Street Journal

“The way that I think about vaccine nationalism is like the instructions on a plane for when the cabin pressure drops and oxygen masks fall in front of you: ‘Put your mask on before helping others.’ The way that predominantly wealthy countries have kind of done this, they’ve basically said: ‘We’re going to put on our own mask; we’re going to take care of ourselves first and vaccinate our population. But we’re also going to take some of these other oxygen masks on the plane, just in case. We may not need to use them, but we’re just going to keep them.’ And there are a finite number of masks, just as there are a finite number of vaccines…

“I think we’re soon going to find that real political leadership is going to mean looking to the rest of the world and figuring out: How do I protect my population and everyone else from looming threats? Just because you vaccinate your population doesn’t mean that they’re automatically safe if this pandemic is ravaging the rest of the world.”
Yasmeen Serhan, The Atlantic

“Sitting on tens of millions of doses that we can’t use because they haven’t been approved yet by the FDA while India melts down is an insane unforced error, one that would have inspired many an angry take about the callousness of ‘America First’ if Trump were still president. It’s terrible diplomatically — and epidemiologically. Every outbreak around the world, especially in an enormous population like India’s, runs the risk of producing a vaccine-proof variant that’ll make its way back here and wreak havoc on America anew. Any vaccine surplus we have should be sent immediately overseas to help put out fires there before they start spreading. It’s not charity. It’s self-defense.”
Allahpundit, Hot Air

“The vaccines we have provide excellent protection against existing variants, but as global cases of Covid reach a record high, particularly in populous countries like India and Brazil, the virus has millions of chances to mutate. The Biden administration announced on Monday that it would deploy a ‘strike team’ to help India conduct viral surveillance, among other goals. That kind of response, however, needs to start happening faster, needs to become a matter of routine, and needs to be integrated into a broader system.”
Melody Schreiber, New Republic

Other opinions below.

See past issues

From the Left

“In other countries, Pfizer has reportedly not only sought liability protection against all civil claims — even those that could result from the company’s own negligence — but has asked governments to put up sovereign assets, including their bank reserves, embassy buildings and military bases, as collateral against lawsuits. Some countries have understandably balked at such demands, according to the nonprofit Bureau of Investigative Journalism, and the pace of purchasing agreements has slowed as a result…

“Nearly 60 nations have petitioned the World Trade Organization to allow countries to temporarily override intellectual property rights for coronavirus-related drugs and vaccines, but so far the measure is languishing. The Biden administration should support this waiver, nudge vaccine makers into voluntary licensing agreements and help build the public-private partnerships needed to bring those agreements to fruition. It should also press companies to offer better deals to the countries trying to secure doses — no more absurd indemnity clauses that protect company profits over human lives.”
Editorial Board, New York Times

Countries could also work together to create a global reserve of vaccines. The current system of bilateral agreements between countries and pharmaceutical companies remains a barrier to quickly deploying excess doses to where they’re needed most…

“Harvard’s [Rebecca] Weintraub suggested something like an international vaccine bank where countries could pool their excess doses, which would then be deployed as needed where cases are surging — rather than the ad hoc donation structure currently in place. Covax, the multilateral vaccine effort, is reserving 5 percent of its doses for such a stockpile. But it’s already short of funding and doses, and the program has nowhere near enough to deal with an emergency situation.”
Jen Kirby and Umair Irfan, Vox

From the Right

“We don’t have any compunction about Americans getting first dibs at the Pfizer, Moderna, and Johnson & Johnson vaccines. The U.S. government subsidized the development and manufacture of these vaccines by offering guaranteed purchases. That the government gave those vaccines to people in America was fitting and appropriate, since a government’s job is to look after its people. Now, American vaccinators have just about met vaccine demand… Battling India’s outbreak is morally and strategically prudent for the U.S…

“The strategic benefit is in supporting the world's most populous democracy at a time of exigent need. It would not go unnoticed in Indian popular or political circles that only the U.S. was willing and able to provide this support. The image of American humanitarian flights surging into Indian airports would be a striking one. And, of course, we have to think about China. India faces an increasingly hostile China on its borders, and America's appeal as a partner against that explicit shared threat would only grow. India serves as a check on Chinese ambitions, and so, a weakened India is a boon to Chinese imperialism.”
Editorial Board, Washington Examiner

“White House officials have long been aware of both the U.S. vaccine surplus and the growing international need, yet didn’t act sooner because of, at least in part, ‘the optics of sending doses abroad during a big push to make vaccines more available to U.S. citizens.’ The State Department repeated this line last week when asked about India and the export restrictions, trying to punt the issue to [the US Trade Representative] (which makes little sense) and then citing their ‘special responsibility to the American people.’ It was only when the humanitarian crisis became unavoidable (and maybe when China offered to help?) that the White House decided to act, losing precious time (and more) in the process.”
Scott Lincicome, The Dispatch

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