India — The United States on Tuesday said that it will be delivering raw materials to the Serum Institute of India (SII) for the production of the Oxford-AstraZeneca Covishield vaccine, with an aim to help India tide over the current wave of the coronavirus disease (Covid-19). In a White House briefing, senior officials of the Biden-Harris administration detailed the comprehensive plan for support that involves transporting raw materials, oxygen supplies, ventilators, therapeutics, Remdesivir, testing and protective equipment, and providing public health assistance to India.
Raw materials for vaccine
Firstly, the United States will be REPLACED to the Serum Institute of India for the production of the AstraZeneca Covishield vaccine against Covid-19, senior administration officials said, adding that this was the “most effective and rapid step” that could be taken at this stage to provide support.
“Given that there is not enough of the supply for the entire global manufacturing effort and in light of the current crisis, we, the United States, are diverting our order to India. So, I want to be clear here that we did not intervene with the manufacturer to make them fill the Serum Institute’s order; we don’t have that power. Instead, what we are doing is diverting our own order of our own supplies to the Serum Institute for their manufacturing,” the official said.
Regarding oxygen supplies, US officials said that these are the resources that India has “specifically requested” and are situated very high on the priority list.
“There’s a number of different buckets – oxygen transport, oxygen generation, oxygen cylinders, the oxygen supply chain. And, in particular, our Department of Defense (DoD) and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) are pursuing options to provide oxygen generation systems,” the official said.
The administration is also working on oxygen generation systems, including larger-scale as well as smaller-scale units, which have been used in US field hospitals to provide oxygen for 50 to 100 beds, the White House said. “And I’ll stress that some of these elements are in the exploration phase; they’re shorter- and longer-term options that we’re providing in the immediate, and then we plan to continue to be engaged over the longer term,” a press noted cited senior administration officials as saying.
Moreover, US experts are also engaged in technical discussions with their Indian counterparts to ensure that the supplied equipment, oxygen concentrations, and ventilators, are compatible with the devices in India. “And we’re also going to be providing training associated with all of these requests as needed.”
Providing further details, said that the USAID and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) will be providing additional technical assistance and materials to strengthen vaccine communications between India and the US and support “vaccine readiness at the national and sub-national levels.”
The US government is also preparing to help with the transportation of these and other supplies to India.
Therapeutics, personal protective equipment, and tests
The United States has identified commercial suppliers of Remdesivir that are immediately available to help relieve the suffering of Covid-19 patients in India. Rapid diagnostic testing supplies and personal protective equipment (PPE) have been identified, and will be available to be transferred to India immediately, the White House said. “Finally, we mentioned the antiviral drug Remdesivir and rapid diagnostic tests, but we are also facilitating India’s own access to those supplies through US-based sources,” officials said.
Public health assistance, a ‘strike team’
The US acknowledged that the CDC and India’s Epidemic Intelligence Services (EIS) have a “long, long history of working together closely and helping one another.”
The US CDC, working with the USAID, will urgently deploy a strike team to India, the White House said, which will include public health experts to work in close collaboration with the American embassy, with India’s health ministries and experts, and with India’s EIS staff.
“That strike team will work hand-in-hand with India’s experts in a number of areas, including laboratory services; surveillance and epidemiology; bioinformatics for sequencing and modeling of the disease; infection, prevention, and control; vaccines rollout; and risk communication,” the press note detailed.
Providing further details, senior administration officials said that the ‘strike team’ will also include CDC-EIS officers and laboratory leadership service officers who will work directly with India’s experts in peer engagements for the model for areas to allow support at the state and the local level. Support from the strike team could also support India being able to immediately add residents to epidemiology class sizes to add new training experts in the Field of Epidemiology Training Program frontline cohort, where the two countries are already working together.
The USAID will also work in the public health arena with the CDC to support and fast-track the mobilization of emergency resources available through the Global Fund. India’s base allocation through the Global Funds Covid-19 resource mobilisation round is $75 million, the White House said.