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US to provide India with raw material for COVID vaccines

Fauci says sending unused AstraZeneca doses is also under consideration

The U.S. has sent AstraZeneca's COVID-19 vaccines to Mexico. Here the first batch is seen arriving at Benito Juarez International airport in Mexico City on March 28.    © Reuters

WILMINGTON, U.S. (Reuters) -- The United States will immediately provide raw materials for COVID-19 vaccines, medical equipment and protective gear to help India respond to a massive surge in COVID-19 infections, a White House spokeswoman said on Sunday.

"The United States is working around the clock to deploy available resources and supplies," National Security Council spokeswoman Emily Horne said in a statement.

Horne said the materials would help India manufacture the Covishield vaccine. The United States would also send therapeutics, rapid diagnostic test kits and ventilators.

Washington was under mounting pressure to help India, the world's largest democracy, after Britain, France and Germany pledged aid over the weekend.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi urged all citizens to be vaccinated and exercise caution, as the country set a global record for new COVID-19 infections in a single day. 

The United States was also pursuing options to provide India with oxygen generation and related supplies.

U.S. officials are also considering sending India its unused COVID-19 vaccines doses from AstraZeneca, the top U.S. infectious disease official Dr. Anthony Fauci told ABC News on Sunday. "That's something that certainly is going to be actively considered," Fauci said in an interview.

AstraZeneca's vaccine is not yet approved in the United States, which has millions of doses, and top U.S. health officials have said they have enough doses of approved versions by three other drugmakers to inoculate all Americans in coming weeks. The nation's top business lobbying group has also pushed the administration to send AstraZeneca's vials to countries with rising cases.

The White House had no comment on the possibility of sending AstraZeneca vaccine to India.

Senior U.S. officials have expressed concern that new variants of the virus emerging in India could undermine progress made in the United States.

The outbreak also threatens the economic recovery of India, the sixth-largest economy in the world.

Horne said the United States would also send a team of experts from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and U.S. Agency for International Development to work with India.

In addition to the immediate aid, the U.S. Development Finance Corporation (DFC) will fund a substantial expansion of manufacturing capability for Indian vaccine maker Biological E, or BioE, enabling the company to produce at least 1 billion doses of COVID-19 vaccines by the end of 2022.

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