SII CEO Adar Poonawalla earlier appealed to President Biden to lift the export ban, which affects the production of COVID-19 vaccines.

State Department spokesperson Ned Price in a navy blue suit and tieTwitter/ Sidhanth Sibal
Coronavirus Coronavirus Saturday, April 24, 2021 - 12:47

Earlier in April, Serum Institute of India (SII) CEO Adar Poonawalla had appealed to US President Joe Biden to lift the embargo on the US’s export of raw materials, which he said was affecting the manufacture of Covovax in India. This was amid a fierce ongoing second wave of COVID-19 in the country. However, the US administration did not respond to the requests at the time. On Saturday, defending the US’s restriction on the export of these goods, Ned Price, a State Department spokesperson, said that the US’s priority at the moment is to vaccinate its own people.

"The United States first and foremost is engaged in an ambitious and effective and, so far, successful effort to vaccinate the American people,” the official said. “We have a special responsibility to the American people… This country has been hit harder than any other country around the world,” he further added. “The point the Secretary (of State Antony Blinken) has made repeatedly is that as long as the virus is spreading anywhere, it is a threat to people everywhere. So as long as the virus is spreading uncontrolled in this country, it can mutate and it can travel beyond our borders. That, in turn, poses a threat well beyond the United States,” he said.

Though Poonawalla had earlier appealed to President Biden lift the ban on raw material export for vaccine manufacturing, he later clarified that the production of the Covishield vaccine will not be affected by the ban. The raw materials will be required for the production of the Covovax vaccine, made in agreement with Novavax, based in the US. Poonwalla has said that the SII will start manufacturing Covovax in April, in order to curb the spread of the coronavirus.

India has been experiencing a massive surge in COVID-19 cases recently, which has led to severe shortage in the availability of hospital beds and oxygen for patients. On April 24, India recorded a new high of over 3.46 lakh fresh COVID-19 cases, with a record high of 2,642 deaths in 24 hours.

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