Biden calls India’s Modi, pledging assistance amid dire coronavirus outbreak

(WASHINGTON) — President Joe Biden spoke to India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Monday, pledging U.S. assistance after growing pressure on Washington to help.

The U.S. will also share as many as 60 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine to other countries “as they become available,” according to the White House senior advisor for COVID response Andy Slavitt.

Public health experts and aid agencies had been urging the Biden administration to start sharing COVID-19 vaccine dose as the U.S. population is increasingly vaccinated, but outbreaks worsen in several other parts of the world — risking the mutation of new variants and stalling the reopening of the global economy.

That’s been particularly true of India, which faces an increasingly dire crisis and historic new numbers of cases each day.

While the country is one of the world’s top vaccine manufacturers, the vast majority of its billions of citizens are not vaccinated, and its manufacturers now face a shortage of the raw materials needed to produce doses.

Indian officials and public health experts have been critical of the Biden administration for not exporting more vaccine supplies to India, especially after the U.S. had given over 200 million shots.

The White House announced Sunday that would change, and during their call Monday, Biden “pledged America’s steadfast support for the people of India,” the White House said, “including oxygen-related supplies, vaccine materials, and therapeutics.”

Biden’s ambassador to the United Nations said earlier on Monday that the U.S. is providing raw materials for vaccines, rapid diagnostic kits, ventilators, public health teams from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the U.S. Agency for International Development, financial support for vaccine expansion, and perhaps most importantly oxygen generation supplies — which Indian hospitals have run out of, causing scenes of agony across the country.

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