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Illustration: Shoshana Gordon/Axios

The Biden administration is quietly pressuring India to restart vaccine exports with plans to offer a higher-profile role for Prime Minister Narendra Modi at an upcoming COVID-19 global summit in New York if he agrees to release vaccines soon, sources with direct knowledge of the high-level discussions told Axios.

Why it matters: India is the world's biggest vaccine maker. In March, Modi halted exports of the AstraZeneca vaccine — one of the cheapest on the market — because the virus was ravaging his own population.

  • Convincing Modi to renew his vaccine supply to the world — through the global vaccination organization COVAX — is an important part of the Biden administration's strategy to mitigate the international spread of the virus.
  • Vaccinating as much of the developing world, as quickly as possible, is in America's vital interest, because the uncontrolled spread of the virus inevitably produces more dangerous variants.

An administration official acknowledged discussing vaccine exports but denied they're tied to Modi's upcoming participation.

  • "We have regularly been communicating with [the] government of India in bilateral and multilateral channels to discuss vaccine supply and inquire about timeline for exports, and these conversations are not tied to a specific summit or engagement," the U.S. official said on the condition of anonymity.

The backstory: The U.S. itself effectively banned its own vaccine exports for months until it had enough supply for all Americans. It's also reserved hundreds of millions of doses for boosters, complicating its position as a proponent of dose-sharing.

  • Modi's government faced internal criticism for allowing millions of doses to be exported before the emergence of a second wave it failed to anticipate.
  • Now, six months later, more than half of India's eligible population has received at least one shot, according to official data, making it more palatable to resume exports.

Behind the lines: Biden officials understand vaccine diplomacy is a delicate subject with the Indians. In internal meetings, high-ranking Biden officials decided to take a soft approach to Modi.

  • Biden plans to host a COVID-19 summit on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly meetings next week, with Surgeon General Vivek Murthy hinting the president will make some new announcements ahead of the summit.
  • Biden aides decided against trying to strong-arm Modi by conditioning his participation on his willingness to release vaccines to COVAX. He'll be welcomed regardless of his decision, according to one of the sources.
  • Modi also has been invited to a White House summit on Sept. 24 along with the leaders of Japan and Australia.

The big picture: COVAX, the UN-backed program aimed at addressing coronavirus vaccine inequality, has struggled to reach its goals.

  • Last week, it announced it expected to have only 1.425 billion doses available at the end of this year, down from the 1.9 billion the organization expected it would have in an estimate provided in June.
  • The World Health Organization (WHO) has been critical of wealthier nations like the United States for prioritizing booster shots ahead of increasing initial donations for residents in lower-income nations.
  • The United States has already donated 140 million doses and pledged to purchase 500 million doses from Pfizer for COVAX distribution, a White House official said.

Go deeper: Officials want countries participating in the summit to pledge that COVAX should be the main vehicle to distribute vaccines.

  • Despite its failure to fully cooperate in the international investigations into the origins of COVID-19, China is being invited, the sources said.
  • Officials also plan to invite Russia, which has largely abstained from the COVAX initiative.
  • Team Biden's goal is to convince wealthier countries to donate — and not sell — any surplus supplies.

Go deeper

Oct 23, 2021 - Health

Benefits of COVID vaccine for children outweigh risks, FDA says

A nurse gives a girl a dose of the Pfizer vaccine at a COVID-19 vaccine clinic at Lyman High School in Longwood on the day before classes begin for the 2021-22 school year. Photo: Paul Hennessy/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

Food and Drug Administration regulators said Friday that the benefits of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine for children far outweigh the risks for children ages 5 to 11.

Why it matters: The announcement could add momentum to the FDA's authorization of doses for children on an emergency basis, which could happen as early as next week, according to the New York Times.

Oct 22, 2021 - Health

Illinois mandates daycare workers to receive COVID vaccine or weekly testing

Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker speaks during a round table discussion with high school students in October 2018. Photo: Joshua Lott/Getty Images

Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker (D) announced Friday that all daycare workers in the state will be required to receive the COVID-19 vaccine or or submit to weekly testing.

Driving the news: Pritzker said he was issuing the requirement to protect "babies, toddlers, and young children not yet eligible for the vaccine."

Felix Salmon, author of Capital
1 hour ago - Technology

Facebook's scandals have been great for shareholders

Expand chart
Data: YCharts; Chart: Axios

Facebook has been embroiled in scandal for the past five years, and while the specific allegations change over time, a central theme is constant. Given the choice between commercial and moral imperatives, Facebook always seems to choose the option that is best for the share price.

Why it matters: Facebook's stock chart supports that narrative. Since the 2016 scandals alleging that the social network was infiltrated by foreign actors trying to influence the outcome of democratic elections, Facebook's revenues — and its stock — have been soaring.