Ro Khanna, an Indian American Congressman, has urged the US to persuade Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna to make their COVID-19 vaccines available in India to help battle the second wave of infections.
Khanna wrote in an article “Why America Must Do More to Help India” in Foreign Affairs magazine that the US administration should press Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna to make contract manufacturing or voluntary licensing arrangements with Indian firms for the duration of the current crisis and the predicted next wave.
“Americans can offer a more consequential kind of support: the United States should prevail upon its private sector to share with India and other developing countries the technology and knowledge needed to beat the pandemic,” he believes.
The Congressman pointed out that an intellectual property waiver at the WTO will be critical to ensure that sharing of vaccine technology and knowledge worldwide, but India’s COVID-19 surge demands immediate action. “It can immediately save lives by dramatically increasing USAID’s shipments of oxygen, ventilators, therapeutics, personal protective equipment and other medical supplies to India,” he said. “The US has a chance to ensure that India’s current crisis will not be repeated elsewhere and using visionary US leadership to guide the world out of this pandemic will pay tremendous dividends in generating global goodwill for generations to come.”
Khanna believes such a move will mark “the moment that the international response to COVID-19 fundamentally changed from one of vaccine nationalism to treating vaccines as a global public good”. He highlighted that the tragedy is not India’s alone. “Such outbreaks are breeding grounds for more dangerous and potentially vaccine-resistant variants of the virus. All countries must recognize that they are in a race against time to vaccinate humanity. Unless the United States and other wealthy countries dramatically change course, this race will be lost.”
The Congressman said the US must urgently respond to India’s ghastly COVID-19 surge and demonstrate that it has learned a fundamental lesson from the past pandemic year; “none of us are truly safe until all of us are safe”.