India begins vaccine export from today
Bhutan, the Maldives and Bangladesh will be among the first countries in the neighbourhood to receive Covid-19 vaccines from India as grant assistance, with supplies of millions of doses to six nations set to begin on Wednesday.
People familiar with developments said on condition of anonymity that 150,000 doses of Covishield vaccine will reach Bhutan on Wednesday. Another 100,000 doses of Covishield vaccine will be sent to the Maldives later the same day under emergency use approvals to vaccinate frontline and health workers and senior citizens.
Bangladesh’s foreign ministry said on its Facebook page the country will receive two million doses of Covishield, the Oxford-Astrazeneca vaccine, from India as a “gift”. It said: “A special flight of India carrying the consignment will land at Hazrat Shahjalal International Airport in Dhaka [on January 21].”
The external affairs ministry said supplies under grant assistance to Bhutan, the Maldives, Bangladesh, Nepal, Myanmar and Seychelles will begin from Wednesday in line with India’s commitment to use its vaccine production and delivery capacity to help the world fight Covid-19.
The ministry said there were also plans to provide vaccines to Sri Lanka, Afghanistan and Mauritius, after “confirmation of necessary regulatory clearances”.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi branded the move as “VaccineMaitri” and tweeted: “India is deeply honoured to be a long-trusted partner in meeting the healthcare needs of the global community. Supplies of Covid vaccines to several countries will commence tomorrow, and more will follow in the days ahead.”
“It will be ensured that domestic manufacturers will have adequate stocks to meet domestic requirements while supplying abroad,” the external affairs ministry said.
A training programme covering administrative and operational aspects is also being conducted between January 19 and 20 for immunisation managers, cold chain and communications officers and data managers of recipient countries.
The only country in the region unlikely to be an immediate beneficiary of India’s efforts is Pakistan, which has not made any formal request for vaccines.
Bangladesh’s ruling Awami League party said on Twitter the two million doses of Covishield would be in addition to the 30 million doses that the government contracted for with the Serum Institute of India (SII) in November.
Since Maldives has a population of about 500,000, India’s grant will cover the vaccination of a significant percentage of the population. In addition, the Maldives plans to buy 300,000 doses from SII at commercial rates.
India’s grants are part of plans to provide up to 10 million doses of both Covidshield and Covaxin, the vaccine made by Bharat Biotech, to friendly countries, the people cited above said.
Bangladesh, Bhutan and the Maldives are among the countries in the region with closest ties with India, and have benefited from projects worth hundreds of millions of dollars in the past few months.
SII has an agreement to supply 200 million doses to Covax, a facility coordinated by Gavi and the World Health Organisation to provide vaccines to lower income countries.
“Keeping in view the domestic requirements of the phased rollout [of the immunisation programme], India will continue to supply Covid-19 vaccines to partner countries over the coming weeks and months in a phased manner,” the external affairs ministry said. India will also “continue to supply countries all over the world with vaccines” and this will be “calibrated against domestic requirements and international demand and obligations, including under Gavi’s Covax facility”, it added.