The East Remembers — Western Vaccine Diplomacy
Amidst all the crisis the world is facing due to Coronavirus, the United States chose to block exports of raw materials required for vaccine manufacturing to India. They snubbed the suffering of others around the world and told us on our face, lives of Americans are more important than others. We won’t forget that, no one ever should.
The North Remembered, you know why, despite being helpful, friendly, and courageous, it was betrayed and battered. Despite being on the right side, doing the virtuous thing for the greater good, it was stabbed to death.
It truly has become Game of Thrones, no more on your screen but, in 2021, when we are facing one of the worst crisis of the century, the Covid-19 war. This time it’s not the North that remembers, but the East (India) that’ll remember, how a nation (The United States) claiming to be a humanitarian champion is full of lies and a champion of Hypocrisy.
The Context & Scenario.
On 16th April, Adar Poonawalla, CEO Serum Institute of India tweeted to the President of the United States.
So what are those critical raw materials?
A typical vaccine manufacturing plant will use around 9,000 different materials, according to a report by the World Trade Organization. These materials are sourced from some 300 suppliers across some 30 countries. The long list of raw materials that SII imports from the US include filters, bags, and adjuvant. Large, sterile plastic bags are used to grow vaccine cells. An adjuvant is a substance that is used to increase the efficacy of a vaccine and helps the immune system generate antibodies.
While vaccine manufacturers can establish a fresh supply chain for raw materials like filters and sterile plastic bags, the disruption in the supply of adjuvant could hamper production for a longer period. Authorized vaccines are made with a certain adjuvant and any change in the vendor of that adjuvant would lead to fresh clinical trials and approvals.
It was a plain simple tweet for the US to lift the embargo it has placed on Vaccine Raw Materials which is making it difficult not just for Serum Institute but also other manufacturers outside the US to facilitate faster vaccine production.
India’s Covid second Deadly Wave
During the week 18th-24th April, India recorded the highest number of covid cases with a 7 day average of 3,10,310 positive cases. India is facing its worst covid crisis. Not just that, the healthcare system has collapsed to handle such huge unexpected numbers, and daily death figures are rising due to a shortage of Oxygen and other medical facilities. This probably is one of the worst disasters that the country has faced.
Citizens and corporates from all spectrum have come together to fight this war which is much more infectious and lethal than the first wave and comes with a new variant, the B.1.617 variant. First detected in the state of Maharashtra, it contains mutations from two separate virus variants — E484Q and L452R. The third mutation evolved from the double mutation where three different COVID strains combined to form a new variant — B.1.618.
The BAN by United States
The United States in February invoked the Defense Production Act, which gives the power to control the distribution of products, to curb the export of raw materials critical for vaccine production. Now despite a genuine request from one of the biggest vaccine manufacturers in the world, the united states not only refused to lift the ban but gave the stupidest statement.
Responding to journalists, the US State Department spokesperson said, “we have a special responsibility to the American people” (Yes, of course, you do, and we appreciate that, but I’ll debunk this theory in later part of the article) “It’s of course not only in our interest to see Americans vaccinated; it’s in the interests of the rest of the world to see Americans vaccinated.”
So the US government thinks that other nation’s vaccination is less important and lives in the United States mattered more than that of other nations. What the hell in this? We call the US most developed nation which claims to be human rights champion, but in reality, it’s a bully which only cares about self interests over everything else, even humanity.
Covid First Wave and Indo-US Relations.
Now let us go back and see the chain of events, it was in April 2020, when the US was recording the highest number of Covid cases and battling against the Virus, US citizens were dying, scientists were still discovering the Virus, forget the vaccination. It was then India sent 50 million Hydroxychloroquine tablets to the US for fighting Covid-19. India removed an export ban on the active pharmaceutical ingredient Hydroxychloroquine, despite stark criticism at home.
The then President of the US Donald Trump openly proclaimed the use of hydroxychloroquine and requested India for exports. Trump touted it as a “game-changer” and urged Prime Minister Narendra Modi to send supplies.
It was no charity, it was a trade deal, but the vaccine raw material is no free lunch too, the manufacturers are just asking to lift the BAN. In this globally connected fight, where R&D is happening somewhere, manufacturing elsewhere, we cannot stay by ourselves. India’s Pharma Manufacturing sector left no stone unturned and supplied the required quantity despite having the strictest lockdown in the world. It was more than a gesture, it was our contribution to fight Covid-19 together. And we did the same with Vaccine distribution.
As of 25th April, India has supplied 10.6 million vaccines as a grant to 30+ countries in the world and a total 66.26 million vaccines under the various agreements to 95 countries.
US Claim of Self Vaccination
Now let’s see how valid is the claim that US citizens need vaccines more than everyone else. Let’s data do the talking.
As of 23rd April, More than 41% (13,86,44,724) of the total U.S. population had received at least one dose of a Covid vaccine, and 28% (9,30,78,040) is fully vaccinated. Considering vaccination for only above 18 age, percentage of the population that has received vaccination is 53.1% (Single Dose) and 35.9% (Both Doses).
Now that leaves around 375.06 million doses of vaccination to be given, as illustrated below. 165.35 million to be administered both doses and 44.36 million left for one dose.
US Vaccine Figures & Estimated Demand/Supply.
As per Jeff M Smith from The Heritage Foundation think-tank “The number of surplus vaccines available after every American has been vaccinated is estimated to be around 70 million…the US has adequate supplies and more. It is now time to relax the prioritization measures and products that fall under the purview of the DPA (Defence Production Act)”
Indian-American Congressman Raja Krishnamoorthi urged the Biden administration to release doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine to countries currently experiencing the deadly surge in COVID-19 cases and said “We are currently sitting on close to 40 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine in the US stockpile, a stockpile which we’re not using and which we’ve already opened to combat COVID-19 in Mexico and Canada”.
Some Vaccination Sites are even closing down as Demand Drops. In Galveston County, Texas, the clinic at a county park won’t operate after May 1. Dr. Philip Keiser, the county’s chief public health officer has asked the state to pause vaccine shipments and said “We’re concerned that some of it may expire before we use it, if we keep getting it”
Some report even states U.S. could have 300 million extra vaccine doses by end of July.
The EU has ordered 1.6bn doses for its adult population of roughly 375 million, the UK has ordered 219m full vaccinations for its 54 million adults (a surplus of 165m), while Canada has ordered 188m full vaccinations for its 32 million adults (an excess of 156 million).
Welcome to the new colonialism, the article rightly highlights the hypocritical world we live in.
When developed nations say they care about the future of humanity, they care about climate change, they care about equal rights and equitable distribution of resources. What they actually mean is they care about everything unless it affects and concerns them.
Ezekiel Emanuel, a health policy expert, and professor at the University of Pennsylvania had in the late march said “We’re going to have supply exceed demand, sometime between now and mid-May”
America could soon be swimming in COVID-19 vaccines. Emanuel said the U.S. should send the excess vaccines overseas. “We can’t stop producing (vaccines) and we can’t sit on our supply. That makes no sense and that’s not ethical,”
High-income countries represent only 16% of the world’s population, yet some of them have bought enough vaccines to cover their population more than twice. The left-liberal gang in developed countries is responsible for this, their tall claims fall flat in the face of adversity. Where are those voices which fuel protests in developing countries, where are those human rights champions who try to become Robin Hood by claiming and shouting for equal rights, probably they’ve disappeared, because a majority of them sit in the U.S. and wants to get vaccinated first?
A must read twitter thread which exposes developed nations and their discriminatory vaccine policies.
While the U.S. is perfectly right when it says it wants to vaccinate own citizens first, and I completely agree on that, but belittling people of other country reflects their true nature. Also the fact, it has vaccine technology and the highest number of vaccines in stock but still doesn’t want to lift the ban on raw material export speaks volumes.
I’ve respect for the US and its people but the administration has shown its true face. Hard times reveal your true character and that of those around you. Pay attention. Action speaks louder than words.
This isn't about India and the US. It’s more about the global chain and system we live in. I’ve always been against the concept of western validation, where eastern countries look for validation and support from western countries, which makes them feel authenticated. The reality is far different, the western values don't reflect in their actions but only remain theoretical. The east must rise and China is the best example, from virus to vaccine, they have produced everything and achieved what no one else can. They have the ability to destroy and also save the world. They have always discarded western validation and build their own. This is also the reason we can see the Biden administration being nice with China.
It’s time for other nations, especially Asian and African countries to look inwards and grow. India is facing the worst times, but we won’t lose it, we’ll fight it, we’ll do everything in our capacity to save not just our fellow citizens but our neighbouring countries and their people. Our values define us, and we live by them.
Our systems have failed, but we won’t fail as human beings.
The US has stoked strong emotions in us, I hope the government is watching, we’ll handle this, we’ll survive this and we’ll come out stronger. But we won’t forget, The East will Remember.
It’s my 10th day in isolation and I couldn't stop myself writing this as I recover and battle Covid. The Biden administration baffles me, their empathy only reflects in their statements, not actions.
Ending it with this powerful statement.
PS: 7 hour after this went online, the US has decided to supply raw materials for vaccine and other medical materials to India. An official statement has arrived. This is a diplomatic win by India and also a message to the world. You can’t bully us.