India will be a "significant recipient" of US vaccines, the country's envoy in US has said as President Joe Biden announced details of his administration's decision to share 2.5 crore COVID-19 shots to countries across the globe that have been facing vaccine shortages.
President Biden on Thursday said that the US will allocate 75 per cent - nearly 1.9 crore of the first tranche of 2.5 crore doses - of unused COVID-19 vaccines from its stockpile through the UN-backed COVAX global vaccine sharing programme to countries in South and Southeast Asia as well as Africa.
The move is part of his administration's framework for sharing 80 million (8 crore) vaccines globally by the end of June.
According to the White House, nearly 19 million vaccine doses will be shared through COVAX, a worldwide initiative aimed at equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines.
"India will be a significant recipient of US vaccines as India has been included in both the identified categories in the allocation announced today- direct supply to neighbours and partner countries, and under the COVAX initiative," India's Ambassador to the US, Taranjit Singh Sandhu, told PTI.
The Biden administration had been under pressure to send the excess COVID-19 vaccines with the US to nations like India, which are facing severe vaccine shortages.
Vice President Kamala Harris personally made a call to Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Thursday to inform him about the administration's decision.
"I deeply appreciate the assurance of vaccine supplies to India as part of the US Strategy for Global Vaccine Sharing. I also thanked her for all the support and solidarity from the US government, businesses and Indian diaspora," the prime minister said in a tweet.
Officials in New Delhi said that PM Modi and Ms Harris discussed ongoing efforts to strengthen the health supply chain between the US and India, including in the area of vaccine manufacturing. They highlighted the potential of the India-US partnership as well as the QUAD vaccine initiative in addressing the long-term health impact of the pandemic.
Mr Sandhu described the phone call as "an important conversation" focusing on vaccines, post-Covid global health and economic recovery.
"The removal of the Defence Production Act priority ratings would further strengthen vaccine supply chains including for manufacturers AstraZeneca and Novavax," Mr Sandhu said, reflecting on other important decisions taken by the Biden administration.
The removal of Defence Production Act priority ratings would let companies take their own decision on whom they want to sell their vaccines.
"These developments are reflective of the firm commitment of the leadership of both India and US to work in partnership on global issues," Mr Sandhu said.
The Indian envoy on Thursday also had a substantive discussion with US Surgeon General Dr Vivek Murthy.
"We discussed India - US cooperation to contain the global pandemic, including in vaccines, and potential collaborations to ensure affordable healthcare," Mr Sandhu said in a tweet.
According to a White House fact sheet issued on Thursday, nearly 19 million vaccine doses will be shared.
Of these approximately six million for South and Central America to the following countries: Brazil, Argentina, Colombia, Costa Rica, Peru, Ecuador, Paraguay, Bolivia, Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Panama, Haiti, and other Caribbean Community (CARICOM) countries, as well as the Dominican Republic.
Approximately seven million for Asia to the following countries: India, Nepal, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Afghanistan, the Maldives, Malaysia, Philippines, Vietnam, Indonesia, Thailand, Laos, Papua New Guinea, Taiwan, and the Pacific Islands, the fact sheet said.
Meanwhile, top American lawmakers, industry groups and Indian-Americans welcomed the decision of the Biden Administration to send coronavirus vaccines to other countries in need.
"I welcome the news that the Biden Administration will be sending 25 million vaccine doses to our partners abroad to help them combat their COVID-19 outbreaks," Indian-American Congressman Raja Krishnamoorthi said.
However, he called it a small step forward when drastic action is needed.
"As coronavirus outbreaks continue to rage across the world, we've passed the time to talk about millions of doses -- we need to be talking about billions, and how we can distribute and administer them as soon as possible to save lives both abroad and in the United States," he said.
"That means dramatically expanding our vaccine production capacity into the billions, our rate of vaccine procurement, and the scale of our international partnerships to ensure that vaccines reach those who need them and that we effectively protect ourselves in the process," he added.
Mr Krishnamoorthi said he will be introducing a legislation next week to address these challenges.
Senator Mitt Romney called it a "good first step."
"I continue to urge the administration to ramp up its global vaccine distribution with a plan that considers urgent needs and regional priorities and I look forward to the next batch being allocated quickly," Mr Romney said.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer urged Biden to set aside a portion from 80 million COVID-19 vaccine doses for India, which the top lawmaker said is now the epicentre of the pandemic.
India is currently witnessing the second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic. India on Friday reported 1,32,364 new coronavirus infections, taking the country's total tally of COVID-19 cases to 2,85,74,350. The country's COVID-19 death numbers climbed to 3,40,702 with 2,713 fresh deaths.
In a letter to President Biden, Mr Schumer said India helped the US in the hour of need earlier by sending much needed protective personnel equipment.
"Now, it is time for us to give back and help the people of India," he said in the letter dated June 1.
"I ask that you set aside a portion from the 80 million doses the United States has said it will release over the next few months to the Republic of India," he said.
The US Chamber of Commerce in a statement welcomed the efforts to boost global vaccine manufacturing and expand vaccine access, including the decision to distribute vaccine doses through the COVAX coalition and provide millions of additional doses directly to countries in need.
Diaspora advocacy group, IMPACT also welcomed the decision.
"We are thankful the administration has responded to the pleas of the Indian American community. But with over one billion people in India still waiting to get access to vaccines, we must do much, much more," said Neil Makhija, executive director at IMPACT.
(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)