Union health minister Harsh Vardhan displays a vial of Bharat Biotech Ltd. Covaxin at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences in New Delhi.(Bloomberg Photo )
Union health minister Harsh Vardhan displays a vial of Bharat Biotech Ltd. Covaxin at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences in New Delhi.(Bloomberg Photo )

Govt assesses supply of Covid-19 vaccines to neighbours, developing countries

  • Several countries have either signed agreements or are in talks with Serum Institute or Bharat Biotech, including Bangladesh, Brazil, Saudi Arabia, South Africa and Morocco.
By HT Correspondent, New Delhi
UPDATED ON JAN 19, 2021 12:18 AM IST

The government held a meeting with the two Indian manufacturers of Covid-19 vaccines to review the issue of supplying doses of vaccines to foreign countries both as grants and through commercial sales, people familiar with developments said on Monday.

The government is currently working out modalities to provide millions of doses as assistance to neighbouring and developing countries and to fulfil commercial contracts inked by the Serum Institute of India and Bharat Biotech, the makers of Covishield and Covaxin.

The virtual meeting between the ministries of health and external affairs and the department of pharmaceuticals looked at factors such as domestic requirements, India’s commitment to supply vaccines to Gavi or the Vaccine Alliance for developing countries and supply of vaccines through commercial sales and government-to-government channels, the people cited above said on condition of anonymity.

Officials have pointed to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s repeated assurances that India’s vaccine manufacturing and delivery capacities will be used to benefit the world, and said the country is committed to fulfilling both commercial contracts and helping developing countries and the neighbourhood.

On Monday, PM Modi referred to his government’s plans to help the neighbourhood and other regions in replies to tweets from Sri Lankan President Gotabaya Rajapaksa and Maldives President Ibrahim Solih. The two leaders congratulated India on the rollout of the world’s largest vaccination programme.

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“Thank you, President @GotabayaR. We will continue to give due importance to our Neighbourhood First policy while collectively fighting the pandemic,” the prime minister tweeted.

In his reply to Solih, PM Modi said, “Our scientists and health-warriors have risen to the occasion. The vaccines being developed and manufactured in India will help our people as well as humanity at large in escaping from the pandemic.”

Rajapaksa had congratulated PM Modi on the successful rollout of the Covid-19 vaccine and “his generosity towards friendly neighbouring countries”. Solih referred to the landmark programme to vaccinate India’s population and said, “I’m highly confident that you’ll be successful in this endeavour and that we are finally seeing an end to the Covid-19 scourge.”

Last week, the external affairs ministry said that a decision on exports will take some more time, though greater clarity on the issue is expected in the near future, the people said. They added that the commerce ministry too will play a key role in the process as it will have to clear exports.

Several countries have either signed agreements or are in talks with Serum Institute or Bharat Biotech, including Bangladesh, Brazil, Saudi Arabia, South Africa and Morocco.

The first beneficiaries of grant assistance are expected to be countries in the immediate neighbourhood, including Bangladesh, Nepal, Bhutan, Sri Lanka, Myanmar and the Maldives, the people said. Pakistan recently approved the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccines, which is being produced by the Serum Institute. Islamabad, however, hasn’t sought any vaccines from India, the people added.

The assistance is expected to be supplied through a state-run entity, as was done when India supplied hydroxychloroquine to numerous countries amid the Covid-19 pandemic last year.

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