US President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris (AP, file photo)
WASHINGTON: Anti-US and anti-western sentiment is exploding across social media with growing criticism directed at the Biden-Harris administration for sitting on stockpiles of unused vaccines, jealously guarding patents, and turning a deaf ear to the dire situation in Covid19-wracked countries such as India and Brazil.
Even American civil society, lawmakers, and businesses are joining the denunciation of Washington amid reports that the US is sitting on huge stockpiles of vaccines though demand is plateauing or dropping across America. This has ked to many vaccinations centers shutting down – an implicit repudiation of the Biden administration’s stand that it wants to take care of Americans first.
In a surprise push back against the America first argument, the US Chamber of Commerce on Friday urged the administration to urgently send vaccines to countries badly affected by Covid-19, warning “no one is safe from the pandemic until we are all safe from it.”
“The US Chamber strongly encourages the administration to release the millions of AstraZeneca vaccine doses in storage – as well as other life-saving support – for shipment to India, Brazil, and other nations hard-hit by the pandemic,” USCC’s executive vice president Myron Brilliant said, adding, “These vaccine doses will not be needed in the United States, where it’s estimated that vaccine manufacturers will be able produce enough doses by early June to vaccinate every American.”
Even former administration officials and Democratic Party stalwarts urged the Biden White House to respond to India’s needs. “India’s current wave requires immediate support from the United States and the international community. India has always stepped up to support others in need and now the time has come for us to help India,” tweeted Nisha Biswal, a former US assistant secretary of state for South Asia in the Obama administration.
According to a report by the Duke Global Health Innovation Center, the United States is on track to have an oversupply of up to 300 million or more vaccine doses as soon as July – counting the Astra Zeneca and Johnson and Johnson vaccines that Washington has sidelined – even as many countries in the developing world will have to wait years to vaccinate a majority of their populations.
By one account, nearly half — 48 per cent — of all vaccine doses administered so far have gone to just 16 per cent of the world’s population in high-income countries, undermining the WHO’s effort to forestall vaccine inequity.
There is also sharp criticism of the US for putting a premium on patents ahead of saving lives at a critical time. Earlier this week, Oxfam released a letter signed by more than 100 former heads of state and Nobel laureates calling on President Biden to waive intellectual property rules for coronavirus vaccines and “put the collective right to safety for all ahead of the commercial monopolies of the few.”
There is also the inevitable left-right politics infecting the debate. Some in India’s right-wing are nostalgically recalled the Trump administration’s support for New Delhi on various issues while excoriating the Biden-Harris dispensation, even though it was Trump who instituted the America first policy, including in the fight against the pandemic.
“Remember HCQ (Hydrochloroquin)? When President Trump requested for it, India provided, though not enough for its own population. Nice words will not cut it. 1.3 billion Indians will remember who stood by them in the hour if their need,” read one post on Twitter.
“So ‘Indian descent’ VP Kamala Harris and niece will not push for US to take basic calls to help other countries during a pandemic. But they will sit in US and virtue-signal India and everyone else! Champions of human rights?” read another, referring to the US Vice-President’s niece Meena Harris who is also a vocal critic of India’s human rights record.
Another tweet listed the Biden administration’s actions in recent weeks seen as inimical to New Delhi – including “blocking vaccine raw materials, calling India a currency manipulator, entering Indian waters without notice, issuing negative reports on human and minority rights in India” – and asked “Is this how an ally behaves?”