Indian-American Congressman brings legislation to expand US aid to COVID-hit countries

'I'm introducing legislation to protect Americans from new variants of the coronavirus by helping our partners abroad defeat COVID'

Indian-American Congressman brings legislation to expand US aid to COVID-hit countries

Indian-American Congressman Raja Krishnamoorthi

Washington, May 20  

Indian-American Congressman Raja Krishnamoorthi on Wednesday introduced legislation in the House of Representatives to dramatically expand American aid to coronavirus-hit countries like India and Argentina.

The Nullifying Opportunities for Variants to Infect and Decimate (NOVID) Act, is an expansive coronavirus prevention program that will ensure Americans are not subject to another deadly surge of COVID-19 domestically, according to a media release.

Under the NOVID Act, the US would establish the USD 19 billion Pandemic Preparedness and Response Program (PanPReP) through the State Department, modelled on PEPFAR, to oversee and coordinate the US global strategy for the COVID-19 pandemic Inspired by the Lend-Lease Act the US used to provide vital supplies to allies during the second world war and based on the President's Emergency Plan For AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) program which has helped save 20 million lives since 2003, the bill would limit the emergence of COVID variants which could threaten outbreaks in the US by helping to end outbreaks abroad which enable such mutations.

The PanPReP would work with international partners and host countries to procure enough vaccines to inoculate 60 per cent of the populations of the 92 low- and middle-income countries eligible to receive COVID-19 vaccines through the COVID-19 Vaccines Global Access (COVAX) programme in order to drastically reduce the emergence of dangerous new virus variants.

To ensure effective administration of the vaccines, the programme would include ensuring their end-to-end delivery. PanPReP would also work with manufacturers to rapidly scale up the production capacity of vaccines and their components in order to secure sufficient supply to achieve herd immunity in COVAX nations and to prepare for any subsequent production of second-generation vaccines necessary to counter new virus strains in the United States and abroad.

"While we've made excellent progress in countering the COVID-19 pandemic here at home as evident by the CDC's new mask guidance, the coronavirus outbreaks devastating other parts of the world continue to represent an enormous threat to our domestic progress as those surges dramatically increase the risk of double and triple mutation variants which our current vaccines may not be able to stop," said Krishnamoorthi.

"Because of that, it's essential that we end these outbreaks now to drastically reduce the risk and range of these mutations forming and threatening the success of our pandemic response," he said.

"That's why I'm introducing legislation to protect Americans from new variants of the coronavirus by helping our partners abroad defeat COVID outbreaks and limit the development of vaccine-resistant strains. Just as the Lend-Lease Act helped us win the Second World War by providing our allies with resources to help us defeat fascism far from our shores, this legislation will help us win the battle against new strains of coronavirus by reducing the risk of their reaching the United States," Krishnamoorthi said.

According to a recent survey by Oxfam, 88 per cent of international epidemiologists report that persistent low vaccine coverage in many countries would make it more likely for vaccine-resistant mutations to appear, while 66 per cent said they had a year or less before the virus mutates to the extent that the majority of first-generation vaccines will become ineffective. PTI 

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