Portman, Warner, Cornyn Urge Biden Administration to Take Additional Steps to Help India Combat Recent COVID-19 Surge

May 5, 2021 | Press Releases

CINCINNATI, OH – Today, U.S. Senators Rob Portman (R-OH), Mark Warner (D-VA), and John Cornyn (R-TX) sent a letter to Secretary of State Antony Blinken expressing their concerns in regards to the ongoing coronavirus surge in India and asking the administration to take further steps to combat the crisis. The country is currently averaging more than 300,000 new infections every day and its health care system and infrastructure are struggling to keep up with the surge.

In their letter the senators commended the administration for recent actions to help India address the crisis, including transferring to India lifesaving equipment and raw materials for the production of vaccines. They also urged the Biden administration to take further steps to help India by continuing its robust contribution to the World Health Organization’s COVAX plan and preparing a detailed strategy on how the U.S. can distribute its surplus of vaccines. Finally, they also warned of disinformation campaigns surrounding the vaccines by countries such as China and Russia and urged the administration to do everything it can to combat these campaigns.

“As you know, India’s healthcare system and infrastructure are struggling to meet the challenges posed by the current and largely unchecked surge, with the country averaging more than 300,000 new infections every day,” said the senators. “We urge you to work with the Department of Defense and other U.S. government agencies, as well as with our international partners and private sector partners to transfer more lifesaving equipment, vaccines and other support to India as quickly as possible. The United States must work with the Indian government on their response, as well as continue to lead the international efforts to stop the spread of variants and to deliver the assistance needed to the Indian people.”

For ways that others can get involved, visit https://www.usaid.gov/.

Text of the letter is below and can be found here.

Dear Secretary Blinken:

We are writing to express our deep concern with the ongoing coronavirus surge and human toll in India and to encourage the Administration to continue to take actions to address the crisis. We commend the recent transfer of lifesaving equipment, including N95 masks and other personal protective equipment, oxygen cylinders, rapid diagnostic tests, and raw materials for the production of vaccines. These deliveries will save lives and demonstrates our commitment to our ally India, the world’s largest democracy. However, we also believe there is more we can do, both to mitigate the tragedy unfolding in India and to ensure that the explosion of cases in India does not undercut global progress to combat this virus.

As you know, India’s healthcare system and infrastructure are struggling to meet the challenges posed by the current and largely unchecked surge, with the country averaging more than 300,000 new infections every day. We urge you to work with the Department of Defense and other U.S. government agencies, as well as with our international partners and private sector partners to transfer more lifesaving equipment, vaccines and other support to India as quickly as possible. The United States must work with the Indian government on their response, as well as continue to lead the international efforts to stop the spread of variants and to deliver the assistance needed to the Indian people.

The United States should also continue its robust contribution to the COVID-19 Vaccines Global Access Facility (COVAX)’s plan for the global acquisition and distribution of vaccines to low and medium-income countries. In addition, in the coming months, the United States will have a surplus of vaccines that can be made available for distribution around the world. A detailed public strategy on how the Department of State plans to distribute these excess vaccines would clarify the ambiguity surrounding future US policy and provide needed certainty to India.

Lastly, we urge the Global Engagement Center to combat the numerous disinformation messages from Russia, China and others regarding the coronavirus pandemic, including the US global health response. Specifically in India, disinformation has undermined the public health response, heightened already-tense religious tensions, and muddied the waters surrounding our support as they face an unprecedented surge in coronavirus infections.  As entities continue to manipulate narratives at the expense of US national security, regional security, and global health security, we urge you to place a greater emphasis on combatting these disinformation and misinformation campaigns integrating that effort into America's global health response to this pandemic. 

We look forward to working with you and the Administration to continue our work to ensure that we stand with our ally and partner, India, as it battles the COVID-19 pandemic.

Sincerely,

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