US lawmakers urge US President Biden to increase COVID relief efforts to India

Several United States lawmakers have urged the Biden administration to ensure that India receives enough COVID-19 vaccines and medical aid, saying the health crisis in the country is "devastating" and America has a responsibility to help its close allies defeat the pandemic.

Biden said the US will share the vaccine to many countries to fight the pandemic through the UN-backed COVAX global vaccine sharing programme
Biden said the US will share the vaccine to many countries to fight the pandemic through the UN-backed COVAX global vaccine sharing programme. Photo courtesy: White House

The American lawmakers called on the US government to send more vaccines and medical assistance to India after President Joe Biden last week announced that the US will allocate 75 per cent – nearly 19 million of the first tranche of 25 million doses – of unused COVID-19 vaccines from its stockpile to countries in South and Southeast Asia as well as Africa by the end of June.

Biden said the US will share the vaccine to many countries to fight the pandemic through the UN-backed COVAX global vaccine sharing programme as part of his administration's framework for sharing 80 million vaccines globally.

Indian-American Congressman Ro Khanna, also a member of the House Armed Services Committee, said to help India deal with shortage, the US needs to send those vaccines that it will never use, just like India helped America in its time of need.

"The crisis in India is devastating and demands more action from (President Joe) Biden. More COVID-19 vaccines and medical supplies are needed to help one of our most important global allies fight this virus," Texas Governor Greg Abbott said.

In a tweet, the Republican governor urged US citizens to join him in praying for India.

Republican Senator Ted Cruz said that almost 300 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines have been administered in the US.

"India is a critical friend of the US. Biden's vaccine sharing programme is flawed: We should prioritise our allies such as India, and make sure it receives the COVID-19 vaccines they desperately need," he said.

Senator Roger Wicker from the Senate Armed Services Committee said that it is important for the US to continue helping other nations beat the coronavirus. "Sending excess vaccines to close allies like India doesn't just make sense, it is the right thing to do," he said.

Congressman Michael McCaul, a ranking member of the House Foreign Affairs, tweeted, "Glad to see critically needed vaccines and other therapeutics will be sent to India to continue to support a longstanding partner and ally."

He said as Texans, this reinforces close ties between "our community and the Indian-American diaspora".

Congressman Adam Smith lauded President Biden for the steps taken to assist countries that need help.

"The COVID-19 crisis in India and other countries has been devastating, and more vaccines and medical supplies are still needed," said the chairman of the powerful House Armed Services Committee.

"To defeat COVID-19, we must fight it both at home and around the world," Smith, a Democrat, added.

Congressman Dan Crenshaw said Houston is home to a large Indian community with friends and families in need back in India. "It should be a priority within this international programme," he tweeted.

The US has also sent critical medical equipment and medicines to India to fight the second wave of COVID-19.

Congressman Darren Soto said as a member of the India Caucus, he thanked President Biden for announcing 25 million in vaccines to hard hit places like India.

"Let's continue to take the necessary steps to address the deadly second wave of COVID-19 there with surplus medical supplies and vaccines," said the member of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce.

Congressman Troy Nehls urged Biden to immediately send surplus vaccines to India to help it in its fight against COVID-19. He is a member of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.

In this global health crisis, it is important that America targets excess COVID-19 vaccines to those around the world that need it most, said Congressman French Hill. "The situation in India, one of our closest allies, is dire. I encourage the Biden administration to support India with vaccines in their time of need," said Hill, who is a member of the House Financial Services Committee.