US to deploy 'strike team' to aid in India's COVID-19 response

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A woman receives a dose of Covishield, a COVID-19 vaccine manufactured by Serum Institute of India, at a vaccination center in Mumbai, India. Photo by: Niharika Kulkarni / Reuters

The U.S. “will urgently deploy a strike team” of U.S. Agency for International Development and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention staffers to India to work with the government and local partners in addressing the surge of COVID-19 cases, according to senior administration officials.

The team will work on improving laboratory services, surveillance, epidemiology, infection prevention, and more, a senior administration official said on a call with reporters Monday. The team will also support the mobilization of emergency resources from the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria.

U.S. support: USAID and CDC will provide technical assistance and support for India’s vaccine communications and readiness efforts. The U.S. government also announced that it would divert its own order of raw materials — specifically, a type of filter — to Serum Institute of India to speed production of the Covishield vaccine.

“This is the most effective and rapid step we could take at this stage to provide support at scale,” a second senior administration official said during the call.

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During a call with U.S. President Joe Biden on Monday, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi didn’t ask for existing vaccine doses but did bring up the issue of waiving intellectual property rights for COVID-19-related products. Officials declined to provide the U.S. position on the issue.

The U.S. is working to support oxygen generation, transport, and cylinders, as well as the supply chain. It will also provide rapid diagnostic tests, therapeutics such as remdesivir, and personal protective equipment.

Why it matters: India’s COVID-19 crisis has escalated rapidly, and the U.S. has been criticized for not responding more swiftly. There have also been questions about whether U.S. policies are limiting exports of raw materials needed for vaccine production.

About the author

  • Adva Saldinger

    Adva Saldinger is a Senior Reporter at Devex, where she covers the intersection of business and international development, as well as U.S. foreign aid policy. From partnerships to trade and social entrepreneurship to impact investing, Adva explores the role the private sector and private capital play in development. A journalist with more than 10 years of experience, she has worked at several newspapers in the U.S. and lived in both Ghana and South Africa.