India hopeful US will soon end curbs on Covid-19 vaccine raw materials export: Govt sources

Washington has invoked the wartime powers of the Defence Production Act to preserve vaccine raw materials for its own companies.
Washington has invoked the wartime powers of the Defence Production Act to preserve vaccine raw materials for its own companies.PHOTO: AFP

NEW DELHI (REUTERS) - India is hopeful the United States will soon lift a ban on vaccine raw materials that has threatened to slow output of shots in the country, two Indian government sources told Reuters on Monday (April 19), after the foreign ministers of the two nations spoke.

One of the officials said the administration of President Joe Biden had told India that its request was being considered and would be acted upon "at the earliest".

Indian Foreign Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar tweeted that he and US Secretary of State Antony Blinken had discussed, among other things, "issues pertaining to our health cooperation".

The Indian foreign ministry declined to elaborate. 

The US State Department confirmed the two diplomats discussed Covid-19, but did not give details.

India is currently facing the world's worst surge in coronavirus infections, which has led to a clamour for vaccines.

The country with the world’s biggest vaccine-making capacity has also stopped major exports to meet domestic demand. 

Mr Jaishankar confirmed on Monday that the government was trying to address the raw materials matter but that it was important for India to meet its export commitments too. 

"I am pushing other countries, particularly some big countries, saying ‘Look, please keep the raw materials flowing for the vaccines to be made in India’," he said, without naming any country. 

"Can I... go around the world and tell people ‘Guys keep your supply chain flowing towards me ... but I am not going to give you the vaccine?’" 

Washington has invoked the wartime powers of the Defence Production Act to preserve vaccine raw materials for its own companies, but the Serum Institute of India (SII), the world's biggest vaccine maker, has said this went against the global goal of sharing vaccines equitably.

Asked about the restrictions on exports, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said inequities in access to vaccines were "completely unacceptable", but declined to detail additional US action to address that. 

SII is licensed to make the AstraZeneca shot as well another developed by US company Novavax.