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Wednesday, March 22, 2023

Biden administration lectures Modi on human rights while hoarding 80 million vaccines it cannot use

Biden administration has been hoarding vaccines despite promises of supplying 80 million doses to countries that need them. Biden had announced that the vaccines would be made available by June end but is now citing logistical hurdles in fulfilling its promise.

An NBC News report states:

With demand for the shots waning and half of the adults fully vaccinated, the U.S. has the excess supply to use for vaccine diplomacy. About 70 million doses of the Pfizer, Moderna, and Johnson & Johnson vaccines have yet to be administered, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

In addition to vaccines from Pfizer, Moderna, and Johnson & Johnson, the US also has unused stocks of AstraZeneca vaccines that are yet to get approval from the US FDA (Food and Drug Administration). In this regard NBC News says:

Another potential big problem is getting Food and Drug Administration authorization for the AstraZeneca vaccine. Of the 80 million doses pledged so far, 60 million were to have come from AstraZeneca — but the administration says it won’t release those doses until the vaccine has been cleared by U.S. regulators, even though it has been approved for use in other countries.

The FDA review process has been delayed by issues with AstraZeneca’s study data, and it is unclear when — or even whether — AstraZeneca’s vaccine will get the green light.

In essence, the US has been holding 60 million vaccine doses that it may potentially never use instead of supplying it to countries such as Japan, Haiti, South Korea among others who have only a small quantity of the doses in comparison to what they require.

Biden, however, seems to be more bothered about image-building exercises and using the vaccines as a counter-diplomacy tool than helping poorer nations who are faced with a health crisis.

While Biden has said the U.S. won’t use the doses to secure favors from other countries, he acknowledged that the move is a valuable diplomatic tool to counter China’s and Russia’s efforts to gain influence with their vaccines.

“There’s a lot of talk about Russia and China influencing the world with vaccines. We want to lead the world with our values, with this demonstration of our innovation, ingenuity, and the fundamental decency of the American people,” Biden said in announcing the move this month. “Just as in World War II America was the arsenal of democracy, in the battle against Covid-19 pandemic our nation’s going to be the arsenal of vaccines for the rest of the world.”

That “arsenal of vaccines” that was intended to save the world has been safely stocked away by the Biden administration. In fact, Biden had said the US would supply 500,000 doses to vaccinate US troops stationed in South Korea while only 3% of the South Korean population has been fully vaccinated.

One of the countries in desperate need of vaccines is Haiti: No vaccinations have yet been administered, and while there are no good data about how many people have been infected, public health officials say cases are on the rise.

The Haitian government announced that it would accept 130,000 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine from the international aid group COVAX, which the country had previously rejected; the doses could arrive in June, according to the Pan American Health Organization.

But that is only a small fraction of what’s needed for the country’s 11 million people. Public health workers say the single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine would make the most sense for Haiti, where persuading the population to get two AstraZeneca shots might be a challenge.

The US is yet to make any efforts to ensure that countries like Haiti receive vaccine doses that they desperately need. While Bharat has already exported 66 million doses under Vaccine Maitri before the second wave hit home forcing the Modi government to halt the exports, the US is only indulging in PR exercises after denying vaccines to poorer nations as the second wave peaked.

Some NRIs seem to be in awe of the Biden administration and are going gaga over the US’ much-delayed vaccine diplomacy which is probably an attempt to salvage its image. One such NRI is Prabhakar, a so-called health expert, who said that the US government has allocated Covid vaccines to India after the meeting between US President Joe Biden and Rev Jackson.

It would be a good time to remind people that the efforts of the Biden administration are too little and too late. Like the US, Canada is also guilty of hoarding vaccines and drawing supplies of vaccines meant for developing nations.

According to a Globe and Mail report:

Canada is the only Group of Seven countries to draw on a supply of COVID-19 vaccines meant primarily for developing countries, leading to fresh charges of hoarding against a country that is already a world leader in vaccine purchases per capita.

The COVAX program pools funds from wealthier countries to help buy vaccines for themselves and for 92 low- and middle-income countries that can’t afford to buy on their own.

But Canada is among just a few rich countries exercising its options now to buy vaccines from the international group. Other wealthy countries on the list receiving the vaccines include New Zealand and Singapore. Canada’s vaccines are expected to arrive by the end of June.

Pending regulator approval, Canada will receive 1.9 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine from the COVAX program. It’s listed among countries such as Rwanda, Afghanistan, and Sudan, which have yet to receive any vaccines, according to the Our World in Data website.

Both Canada and the US have been holding stocks of vaccines that they would probably never use even as countries such as Bharat are stepping forward to help the poorer nations deal with the Chinese Virus pandemic.

(Featured Image Source: Outlook India)

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