The Indian diaspora in the United States helped mobilize to send four million Covid-19 vaccines to India but the Indian government refused to take them, a prominent Indian-American doctor told indica News.
Dr Anupama Gotimukula, president of the American Association of Physicians of Indian Origin (AAPI), one of the largest and most influential doctors’ groups in the United States, also spoke to indica News about a wide range of topics, including her vision for AAPI.
“It did not work out,” Dr Gotimukula told this correspondent when asked about the vaccines that were to be sent to India, one of the worst-hit countries in the pandemic.
“We tried our best to push for it but the Indian government was not taking vaccines from the United States. They said we will make our own. India was not desperate,” Dr Gotimukula said.
She iterated: “We tried to get 4 million vaccines to India from the Biden government and it was turned down from the India side.”
Earlier, a State Department spokesperson had told indica News that the hurdle was indemnity.
“Yes, indemnity is one of the issues, but the second reason why it was turned down is if there are complications… India is not ready to take the blame,” Dr. Gotimukula said.
“We talked directly to the [Indian] government officials and they said we are not going to take the risk,” she added. “We tried to speak to the health minister and we wrote about promoting the vaccine.”
Another reason for India’s refusal of the US vaccines was the lack of infrastructure in India, Dr Gotimukula said.
“There is a concern about safety and it [the mRNA vaccine ] has to be stored at minus 70 degrees centigrade. And the storage facility is not there in India. So, vaccine efficiency may not be good,” she said.
“Also, Modi government is very strong on the Make in India concept,” she added. “They want to make everything in India.”
Indian pharma, she said, was doing very well.
“The Serum Institute… they are making Covishield [a version of the Oxford AstraZeneca vaccine], and Covaxin doesn’t not have the temperature issue,” Dr Gotimukula said.
Indian-American physicians, she said, were pitching in via other means to help India cope with Covid.
She said AAPI has raised $5 million and “we are planning to spend on oxygen plants in the rural areas, since Covid is going up again in India.”
Also, AAPI is going to buy Indian vaccines in India and set up vaccine camps in Hyderabad and Delhi. “We are going to make sure that these camps will help vaccinate those in slum areas, who will never get vaccinated otherwise; that is our pilot project,” she said.
Dr Gotimukula also felt that due to strict Indian government regulations it was hard for doctors in the US to help Covid patients in India.
“Lots of patients were dying and we tried to do telemedicine, and Indian government denied help. So, we couldn’t do telemedicine but did some voluntary teleconsulting.”
She said that even doctors don’t know much about Covid in India.
“We educated to doctors in India on what is latest,” Dr Gotimukula said. “We have
multiple WhatsApp groups and doctors in India and doctors in US share a healthy exchange of information from here, and we have a lot of webinars.”