The United States is concerned about the COVID-19 variant that has badly hit India, National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan has said as he asserted that the Biden administration is “proud” of its aid efforts so far despite bipartisan criticism of its response. India is struggling with a second wave of the pandemic with more than 3,00,000 daily new coronavirus cases being reported in the past few days, and hospitals are reeling under a shortage of medical oxygen and beds.
“We are concerned about variants. We’re concerned about spread. We’re concerned about the loss of life and also all of the secondary effects that emerge as this pandemic rages out of control in India,” Sullivan told ABC news in an interview. Sullivan said that in a crisis of this speed and ferocity “we always wish we could move faster and do more.
“We are proud of what we’ve done so far, which has included multiple plane loads – and we’re talking very large military plane loads of supplies, including oxygen – including diverting raw materials for vaccines, including therapeutics that can help save lives,” Sullivan said, referring to the assistance being provided by the US to India. “We are continuing to work to source additional critical materials to move them as fast as we can, both directly from the United States and also galvanising partners around the world, he said.
The Biden administration had come under criticism from several quarters, including from members and supporters of the Democratic party, for not releasing surplus COVID-19 vaccines to India when the country is experiencing its worst-ever public health crisis. President Joe Biden last week spoke with Prime Minister Narendra Modi and pledged to provide oxygen, personal protective equipment and other medical supplies to India.
Dr Ashish Jha, Dean of the Brown University School of Public Health, told ABC News that India is experiencing a horrible outbreak right now. “We’ve got to help India get this under control, for a variety of reasons, the humanitarian one, certainly; there are geopolitical issues; but from a pure public health point of view, that large of an outbreak also is fertile ground for more variants, he said.
“There are just many, many reasons why we’ve got to be very deeply engaged in helping India get this outbreak under control, Dr Jha said responding to a series of questions on India, which is in the grips of a devastating surge in COVID cases. The main COVID19 variant that has spread in India will not be evading American vaccines yet, he said. “They don’t evade our vaccines yet. Most of the data suggests that our vaccines will hold up. But, of course, when you have major outbreaks like this, there are the opportunities for more variants, he said.
“Ultimately, what we need to do is we need to get this under control, as I said, purely for humanitarian reasons — we just don’t want tens of thousands of people dying every day. But, second, that the variants will spread to other parts of the world, including the United States, will leave unvaccinated people in America vulnerable, he said. “So there’s a lot of good reasons for us to be getting this under control,” Jha said.
According to Indian health ministry data, single day rise of 3,68,147 COVID-19 infections and 3,417 fatalities pushed the country’s tally of cases to 1,99,25,604 and death toll to 2,18,959 on Monday.