As India’s Covid crisis deepens, US rejected a key demand by Indian vaccine makers, indicating it would prioritise its own citizens before addressing India’s request for vaccine components.
Responding to journalists, the US state department spokesperson said, “We have a special responsibility to the American people”. He added, “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.”
The implied subtext was that vaccination of Indians was less important even as non-availability of the components will be a blow to India’s vaccine programme.
Foreign minister S Jaishankar has held a couple of rounds of discussions with counterpart Anthony Blinken on easing of the US export embargo. Foreign secretary Harsh Shringla has held similar discussions with Wendy Sherman, US deputy secretary. Washington sources said some US Congressmen have also expressed support. But that getting a positive response is going to be difficult is now clear.
Meanwhile, German Chancellor Angela Merkel expressed doubts about helping India develop its pharma sector, especially as India tightened its pharma exports in the context of the Covid crisis.
Merkel was quoted as saying by Politico, “We now have a situation with India where, in connection with the emergency situation of the pandemic, we are worried whether the pharmaceutical products will still come to us,” observed Merkel. “Of course, we have only allowed India to become such a large pharmaceutical producer in the first place, in the expectation that this should then also be complied with. If that is not the case now, we will have to rethink.”
Indicating that Germany might rethink its own industrial policies Merkel said, “The truth is, we haven’t treated our pharmaceutical industry so well for many years.”