Updated April 25th, 2021 at 23:15 IST

US agrees to export COVID vaccine raw materials to India, lifts embargo amid rising cases

As India battles devastating COVID-19 crisis, the US has decided to lift embargo on export of raw materials required by SII for production of Covishield.

Reported by: Pritesh Kamath
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As India battles the devastating second wave of COVID-19 pandemic with the nation clocking more than 3 lakh cases every day and making a new high in single day spike of COVID-19 infections, the US government has decided to lift the export ban on the essential raw materials required by the vaccine manufacturer in India for production of COVID-19 vaccine.

This development comes as National Security Advisor Ajit Doval and US counterpart Jake Sullivan had a phone conversation regarding the dangerous spike in COVID-19 infections across the country. Sullivan affirmed America’s solidarity with India, the two countries with the greatest number of COVID-19 cases in the world.

A statement released by the White House read, "Just as India sent assistance to the United States as our hospitals were strained early in the pandemic, the United States is determined to help India in its time of need." 

This also seemingly comes after several US lawmakers voiced their concerns over the COVID-19 situation in India. They exerted pressure on the Biden administration to extend assistance, release vaccines and other raw materials critical for India.

'Identified source of specific raw material'

"The United States has identified sources of specific raw material urgently required for Indian manufacture of the Covishield vaccine that will immediately be made available for India. To help treat COVID-19 patients and protect front-line health workers in India, the United States has identified supplies of therapeutics, rapid diagnostic test kits, ventilators, and Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) that will immediately be made available for India," the statement read.

"The United States also is pursuing options to provide oxygen generation and related supplies on an urgent basis. The U.S. Development Finance Corporation (DFC) is funding a substantial expansion of manufacturing capability for BioE, the vaccine manufacturer in India, enabling BioE to ramp up to produce at least 1 billion doses of COVID-19 vaccines by the end of 2022," the statement added.

Adar Poonawalla appeals to Biden

Earlier in April, Serum Institute of India's (SII) CEO Adar Poonawalla had requested United States President Joe Biden to lift the embargo of raw material exports from the US. Taking to Twitter, Poonawalla appealed to Biden Poonawalla to lift the ban by stating that it will "ramp up" the vaccine production amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

SII is currently manufacturing AstraZeneca-Oxford’s COVID-19 vaccine 'Covishield' and it will reportedly soon start producing Novavax vaccine, developed by the US biotech company. Poonawalla had also said in an interview that SII was struggling due to an embargo in the US and India requires those materials sooner. He also said that India has ruled out importing raw materials from China considering the quality issues.

India continues to grapple with the alarming surge of COVID-19 infections, deploying all its resources to battle the pandemic. The country has recorded over a million infections in four days, with 349,961 new cases on Sunday. The Sunday's record spike has become another highest single-day spike globally. According to the Union Health Ministry, the country has recorded 2,767 new deaths due to COVID-19 in the last 24 hours.


Published April 25th, 2021 at 23:07 IST