Donate vaccines to India, start with Tamil Nadu, experts tell Biden

RITU JHA

A group of physicians and public health experts have written an open letter to President Joe Biden, urging the United States to donate Covid-19 vaccines to India and to start by sending 30 million Moderna vaccines to Tamil Nadu.

They would be submitting the letter, which you can read by clicking here, to Congress on Monday, May 17.

We are leaders in public health and global health across the country,” says the letter. “We now make an appeal to Congress and the Biden Administration to donate or loan surplus vaccine and transfer technology to India and other South Asia countries.”

The letter is signed by Kumar Gopalakrishnan, CEO, Hubbub World, and 16 others, including Chris Beyrer, is the Desmond M Tutu Professor of Public Health and Human Rights at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in Baltimore, Maryland; Carlos del Rio, executive associate dean, Emory School of Medicine & Grady Health System; Linda P Fried of Columbia University Mailman School of public Health; Celine Gounder infectious disease specialist and NYU professor; and other big names.

One of the signatories to the letter, Dr Monica Gandhi, director, University of California San Francisco Center for AIDS Research and professor of medicine at the UCSF, told indica News: “The humanitarian crisis in India and other countries in South Asia cannot be ignored by the US government when we have surplus doses.”

She said: “Yes, many global and public health experts in the US are urging President Biden and Congress to send surplus of any vaccines we have in the US to South Asia as soon as possible.

What worries me most about India is how fast the virus is spreading and how even younger people are getting sick because they are still susceptible to Covid-19 without vaccination,” Dr Gandhi said.

The letter to which Dr Gandhi and the others have signed said: “The faster we end this pandemic, the lower the global humanitarian and economic toll. To get ahead of the

virus as it evolves, we need to identify, evaluate and monitor new variants as they emerge across the globe. This requires health agencies worldwide to provide samples or sequenced genomes for analysis along with reliable epidemiological data on outbreaks. Today, GISAID has proven to be most comprehensive such infrastructure. However, we need further cooperation and participation from respective health agencies across the world to track the evolution and spread of variants towards ending this pandemic.”

The letter also states that the state of Tamil Nadu in India is interested in securing vaccines from the US.

“We recommend that the US donate or loan 30 million doses of the Moderna mRNA1273 vaccine from the US supply immediately which can be easily distributed and administered by the relatively mature public health infrastructure in the state,” according to the letter.

This would allow the state to emerge from the lockdown having contained the

surge that is starting there and also serve as a model for deploying the excess US vaccine supply elsewhere in India and the world in a strategic manner. Further, this pilot could also demonstrate the US access to genomic and epidemiological data that will be so crucial to winding down this pandemic.”