India is expected to get possibly the largest share of the 25 million Covid-19 vaccine doses that the United States announced it will send to partner countries and those dealing with ongoing surges. India figures in two categories of prospective recipient countries.
Out of the 25 million doses, 19 million will go through Covax, the WHO-led initiative for global equitable distribution, to countries earmarked by the US. Of this, 7 million will go to Asia, including India and 15 other countries, according to a factsheet issued by the White House.
India also figures on a list of recipient countries described by the US as “regional partners and partner recipients”, which also include Canada, Mexico, South Korea, Egypt, Jordan, Ukraine, Georgia and Gaza – 7 million doses have been set aside for this group. India was not in this category in the first factsheet, leading to some confusion because it was included in that category in a statement issued by President Joe Biden. An updated factsheet has India in this category. No country-specific numbers have been released by the US.
Taranjit Singh Sandhu, the Indian ambassador to the US, told Hindustan Times, “The vaccine allocation announcement by US and the telephone call between Indian PM and VP Kamala Harris reflect the firm commitment of the leadership of both India and US to work in partnership on global issues.”
US Vice-President Harris had called Prime Minister Narendra Modi and three other world leaders to personally notify them of the US allocation plan on Thursday, before the announcement. “I deeply appreciate the assurance of vaccine supplies to India as part of the US Strategy for Global Vaccine Sharing,” Modi had said in a tweet, adding, “I also thanked her for all the support and solidarity from the US government, businesses and Indian diaspora.”
President Biden has pledged to share 80 million doses of Covid-19 vaccines with countries that need them – 60 million of AstraZeneca (called Covishield in India), which the US doesn’t intend to use and 20 million of Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna’s – by the end of June.
The Biden administration announced the allocation plan for 25 million of 80 million on Thursday, promising, as national security adviser Jake Sullivan has said, “the United States will not use its vaccines to secure favours from other countries”.
It was a thinly disguised shot at Russia and China, who, the Americans say, have distributed vaccines seeking to advance their own interests.