Ground staff unload coronavirus disease (COVID-19) relief supplies from the United States at the Indira Gandhi International Airport cargo terminal in New Delhi, India April 30, 2021. Prakash Singh/Pool via REUTERS
WASHINGTON, - The United States is communicating regularly with India in bilateral and multilateral channels to discuss the supply of COVID-19 vaccines and inquire about its timeline for restarting vaccine exports, a senior Biden administration official said.
The global pandemic will be a key topic on Sept. 24, when U.S. President Joe Biden will host the first in-person summit of leaders of the "Quad" countries - Australia, India, Japan and the United States.
The visit by Prime Ministers Scott Morrison, Narendra Modi and Yoshihide Suga to the United States will coincide with the United Nations General Assembly in New York, which Biden will address on Sept. 21.
The Quad leaders met virtually in March and agreed to work closely on COVID-19 vaccines, but the initiative stalled after India, the world's largest vaccine producer, was hit by a catastrophic wave of infections, and halted vaccine exports.
The administration official said Washington was staying in close touch with India and other Quad partners about the vaccine partnership, and "any factors that may affect this project or global vaccine supply," but those discussions were not tied to a specific summit or engagement.
The official noted that Washington had diverted its own supply of raw materials for vaccine production to India in April, given its urgent needs, and global vaccine supply remained a key bottleneck to ending the pandemic.
"We commend India for being one of the largest manufacturers for safe and effective COVID-19 vaccines globally, and we note that COVAX and the world rely heavily on India's contributions," the official said. "It's important for the United States to engage all our allies and partners on these matters so we can take the necessary actions to end this pandemic together."
Reporting by Andrea Shalal; Editing by Karishma Singh