The United States will be delivering COVID-19 relief materials worth over USD100 million to India in the coming days, the White House said as the first flight carrying urgent health supplies left for the country.
The flight took off from the Travis Air Force Base on the world's largest military aircraft on Wednesday night, the US Agency for International Development said.
The shipment includes 440 oxygen cylinders and regulators, generously donated by the state of California, USAID said.
In addition, on this first flight, USAID is sending 960,000 Rapid Diagnostic Tests to identify infections early to help prevent the community spread of COVID-19, and 100,000 N95 masks to protect India's frontline healthcare heroes, it added.
US state governments, private companies, non-government organisations and thousands of Americans from across the country have mobilised to deliver vital oxygen-related equipment and essential supplies to Indian hospitals during the current outbreak, the White House said.
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A vaccine works by mimicking a natural infection. A vaccine not only induces immune response to protect people from any future COVID-19 infection, but also helps quickly build herd immunity to put an end to the pandemic. Herd immunity occurs when a sufficient percentage of a population becomes immune to a disease, making the spread of disease from person to person unlikely. The good news is that SARS-CoV-2 virus has been fairly stable, which increases the viability of a vaccine.
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Vaccine development is a long, complex process. Unlike drugs that are given to people with a diseased, vaccines are given to healthy people and also vulnerable sections such as children, pregnant women and the elderly. So rigorous tests are compulsory. History says that the fastest time it took to develop a vaccine is five years, but it usually takes double or sometimes triple that time.
Asserting that this reflects America's solidarity with India as it battles a new wave of COVID-19, the White House said that the immediate emergency assistance includes oxygen support, oxygen concentrators, oxygen generation units, personal protective equipment, vaccine manufacturing supplies and rapid diagnostic tests.
According to the White House, an initial delivery of 1,100 cylinders will remain in India and can be repeatedly refilled at local supply centres, with planeloads more to come.
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has also locally procured oxygen cylinders and will deliver them to support hospital systems in coordination with the government of India, it said.
The US is providing Oxygen Generation Units (PSA Systems) as well.
"Multiple large-scale units to support up to 20 patients each, and additional mobile units will provide an ability to target specific shortages. A team of US experts will support these units, working hand-in-hand on the ground with Indian medical personnel," the White House said.
The US is further providing 15 million N95 masks to protect both patients and Indian health care personnel.
The Biden administration has re-directed its own order of AstraZeneca manufacturing supplies to India. This will allow India to make over 20 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines, the White House said.
According to a fact sheet issued by the White House, the US is providing the first tranche of a planned 20,000 treatment courses of the antiviral drug remdesivir to help treat hospitalised patients.
Further, the CDC experts will work hand-in-hand with India's experts in the areas of laboratory, surveillance and epidemiology, bioinformatics for genomic sequencing and modelling, infection prevention and control, vaccine rollout, and risk communication, it said.
Observing that the US and India have closely worked together to respond to the pandemic, the White House said American COVID-19 assistance has reached more than 9.7 million Indians across more than 20 states and union territories.
The US has partnered with more than 1,000 Indian healthcare facilities to strengthen preparedness, including training of over 14,000 people on infection prevention and control, it said.
The US has also helped keep more than 213,000 frontline workers safe by imparting risk mitigation training for doctors, nurses, midwives, community volunteers, sanitation workers, and others actively responding to COVID-19 in India, the White House added.
It has also launched joint public messaging with UNICEF on COVID prevention that has reached more than 84 million people and provided 200 state-of-the-art ventilators to 29 healthcare facilities in 15 states to care for critically-ill COVID-19 patients, it said.
In its fact-sheet, the White House said that for 70 years, US public health experts from across the government, including USAID, HHS, CDC, FDA, and NIH, have worked in partnership with Indian officials to improve the health of India's most vulnerable communities.
Over the last 20 years, US foreign assistance to India has exceeded USD2.8 billion, including more than USD1.4 billion for healthcare. The two countries and other partners have worked together to reduce new HIV infections by 37 per cent between 2010 and 2019, it said.
Since 1998, the United States and India have worked together to combat tuberculosis (TB) through improved patient-centred diagnosis, treatment and prevention, helping treat 15 million people with the disease.
In the last five years, the United States has helped 40 million pregnant women receive vital health information and services, the White House said.
The United States, in partnership with the government of India and the World Health Organization, has supported initiatives at the district, state and national levels to build frontline disease detection capacity.
The two countries are also working together to advance global health security and fight outbreaks before they become pandemics, the White House added.