White House Directs COVID Aid to India after Criticism of Its Initial Response

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A patient wearing an oxygen mask is wheeled inside a COVID-19 hospital for treatment in Ahmedabad, India, April 26, 2021. (Amit Dave/Reuters)

The White House announced that it would ship medical equipment and provide other aid to India amid a worsening coronavirus crisis, following criticism of the Biden administration’s initially slow response to the surge.

The aid includes oxygen generators, canisters and other oxygen equipment for critically-ill coronavirus patients, 15 million N95 masks, and rapid tests.

Additionally, “the U.S. has re-directed its own order of Astra Zeneca manufacturing supplies to India,” the White House said in a statement. “This will allow India to make over 20 million doses of COVID-19 vaccine.”

Coronavirus cases in India have skyrocketed since the beginning of April, with the country reporting more than 300,000 new daily cases and over 3,000 new deaths per day by Wednesday. Indian health facilities are close to collapse, with hospitals turning away patients for lack of available beds.

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“Respected POTUS, if we are to truly unite in beating this virus, on behalf of the vaccine industry outside the U.S., I humbly request you to lift the embargo of raw material exports out of the U.S. so that vaccine production can ramp up,” Adar Poonawalla, head of the Serum Institute of India, wrote on Twitter on April 16. The Serum Institute is the world’s largest vaccine producer.

President Biden lifted export controls on some raw materials needed to produce vaccines on Monday, following pleas from Indian officials and vaccine-makers. However, India saw the response by the Biden administration to its current coronavirus wave as too slow.

“The delay in U.S. response to the humanitarian crisis unfolding in India is regrettable,” Aparna Pande, director of the Initiative on the Future of India and South Asia at the Hudson Institute, told Bloomberg on Monday. “What these incidents have ended up doing is reinforce the argument within India that strategic autonomy is the path to continue with, not further alignment with the U.S.”

The White House on Wednesday emphasized its support for India during the crisis.

“Just as India sent assistance to the United States when our hospitals were strained early in the pandemic, the United States is determined to help India in its time of need,” the press release stated.

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