Statement of Rep. Tom Malinowski on the Health Crisis in India and on Vaccine Diplomacy

May 3, 2021
Press Release

(Somerville, NJ) “I welcome the Biden Administration’s actions to begin rushing medical supplies to our friends in India, and hope the administration will announce new steps in the coming days to accelerate the production and distribution of COVID vaccines around the world. The Indian people are facing a particularly painful surge of COVID-19 cases, and many are dying simply due to a lack oxygen, ventilators, and hospital capacity. It is clear that we have not only a moral obligation to come to the assistance of our Indian friends, but a national security interest in helping the world’s largest democracy recover from the pandemic before it becomes an incubator of new vaccine-resistant variants of the disease. I urge the administration to activate all possible resources in the United States—including in the Defense Department—to rush the necessary oxygen generation and storage tools and ventilators to India.  At the same time, I call on the administration to ensure that all of the WHO-approved AstraZeneca vaccines in our stockpiles (which the U.S. will not use) are shared with India and other nations the moment that can safely be done, and to accelerate plans for sharing globally some share of the large surplus of vaccines that the United States has produced or reserved for our population. This process should begin now, and not wait until we have achieved herd immunity in the United States.

From the start of this crisis, I have urged strong U.S. financial support for global institutions, like COVAX, that are making vaccines available to developing countries. From a public health standpoint, this is the most fair and objective way to ensure that vaccines get to those who need them most. But there is nothing wrong with engaging in “vaccine diplomacy” on top of our generous support for COVAX. President Biden rightly decided that he had a special responsibility to secure enough supply to vaccinate Americans before others; by the same token, the United States can and should make a special effort to deliver surplus vaccine doses to friends and allies, including India, to whom we also have special obligations, and to facilitate the export of raw materials needed for vaccine production in these countries. We have a public health interest in getting as many vaccines out as quickly as possible, and a historic opportunity to be the country that leads the world away from COVID. There is not a moment to be lost.”