On India’s Independence Day, we reflect on the nation forged when, in 1947, ordinary men and women began to build a country of their own on a foundation of courage, sacrifice, and hope. Indians and Indian-Americans have much to be proud of in the progress India has made over its first three-quarters of a century, but the enduring challenges of this worldwide pandemic call for a global vaccination effort, with India and the United States at the forefront.
My parents brought our family to the U.S. from India when I was three months old and raised me as an American proud of his Indian heritage and the accomplishments of the Indian people. Today, I am serving my third term in the United States Congress. Throughout my time in office, I have worked to strengthen the enduring partnerships between the United States and India as we have worked to bring greater security and prosperity to our nations, the Indo-Pacific region, and the world. Now, we must rise to meet the challenges posed by this pandemic which cannot be overcome without the efforts of the world’s oldest democracy and its largest.
Both the U.S. and India have known the horrors of this pandemic, and while we have weathered its previous waves, there is no guarantee that our progress will endure until everyone is vaccinated. Today, around 8% of Indians are fully vaccinated while 50% of Americans are, but both our nations remain vulnerable to the threat of new variants which will endure so long as any large population of unvaccinated people remains. Because of this reality, it is essential that the U.S. acts to dramatically expand our vaccine aid programmes to put shots in arms around the world, to not only save lives today but also to strengthen the arsenal of humanity against the coronavirus. Nations such as India can help inoculate their own populations and then join the global effort to vaccinate other nations most in need.
So far, the U.S. has allocated just 7.5 million vaccine doses to India through our donation programme. While those doses have not yet been delivered due to regulatory delays, even if they had been, that contribution would be a tiny fraction of what is needed. That is why I introduced the Nullifying Opportunities for Variants to Infect and Decimate (NOVID) Act, which remains the only legislation in Congress that would establish an American-led global vaccination campaign against COVID-19. The NOVID Act would ensure the production and distribution of eight billion vaccine doses across the world, paving the way for other leading vaccine producers, such as India, to contribute to the effort as their own domestic inoculation efforts reach herd immunity levels.
I have always been fond of India’s national motto, “Truth alone triumphs.” The truth of our times is that the coronavirus pandemic will only truly end when we have defeated the virus everywhere. That is why I will continue to fight to expand American vaccine aid to India and other nations as we build a global coalition to end the pandemic. I know India will one day be at the heart of that effort through the strength of its health-care professionals and the humanitarian commitment of its people. As we celebrate India’s Independence Day amid this pandemic, we must continue to reaffirm the importance of the U.S.-India alliance which will help the entire world declare its independence from the coronavirus.
Raja Krishnamoorthi, a Democrat from Schaumburg, represents the 8th Congressional District of Illinois