New Delhi: India on Tuesday confirmed that it will begin the export of COVID-19 vaccines from January 20 (Wednesday) with the first tranche being gifted to six neighbours. These countries are Nepal, Bangladesh, Myanmar, Bhutan, Maldives, and Seychelles. The vaccines will reach Bhutan at around 11 am local time on Wednesday with 150,000 doses and the Maldives at around 2 pm with 100,000 doses.
The Ministry of External Affairs in its release said, “Keeping with India’s stated commitment to using India’s vaccine production and delivery capacity to help all of the humanity fight the COVID-19 pandemic, supplies under grant assistance… from 20 January 2021.” When it comes to Sri Lanka, Afghanistan and Mauritius, India is still awaiting their confirmation of necessary regulatory clearances.
The MEA said, “India will 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 to developing countries”.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi tweeted the announcement as well. In a tweet, he said, “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.”
Ahead of the delivery of vaccines, India is conducting training programmes–covering administrative and operational aspects on Tuesday and Wednesday for immunization managers, cold chain officers, communication officers and data managers of the recipient countries. This is being done both at national and provincial levels.
External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar said, “India fulfils a commitment to give vaccines to humanity. Supplies for our neighbours will start on 20th January. The Pharmacy of the World will deliver to overcome the COVID challenge.”
India has got requests from a dozen countries for the COVID-19 vaccines. In 2020, amid the pandemic, India sent hydroxychloroquine and paracetamol to 150 countries. India has also been organising several training courses for healthcare workers and administrators of partner countries under the Indian Technical and Economic Cooperation (ITEC) programme.
Meanwhile, Cambodia has become the latest country to request India for COVID-19 vaccine even as New Delhi has been reached out by other countries for it. Cambodian PM Hun Sen had met the Indian envoy to Cambodia Devyani Khobragade and requested for the vaccine.
The Cambodians have not quantified their requests for the Indian vaccines, but it comes, two days after China promised a donation of one million doses. The development shows Cambodians are open to getting more vaccines from India and not totally reliant on China. Cambodia is seen close to Bejing, that is why it makes it significant.
The Bangladeshi foreign ministry in a Facebook post said, “Bangladesh will receive 20 lakh doses of Oxford-Astrazenca Covid-19 vaccines (Covishield) from India as a gift on 21 January.” A special flight of India carrying the consignment will land at Hazrat Shahjalal International Airport in Dhaka on Thursday. The ruling Awami League party of the country also tweeted the same and highlighted that the govt will also procure additional 30 million Covishield COVID-19 vaccines from Serum Institute of India (SII).
This comes even as South African government in a fact sheet released today said that the country will be getting one million doses of covid vaccine in January and 500,000 doses in February of the oxford University-Astrazeneca vaccine from SII.
It’s just not the Indian subcontinent that is the focus. As far as Latin America, India is sought after for the COVID-19 vaccine. Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro on Monday met Indian envoy to Brazil Suresh Reddy. In a tweet he said, “It was a great pleasure meeting you Excellency! Our relations are growing stronger by the day under your and Narendra Modi ‘s leadership!” While the elements of the discussions are not known, the meet happens in the backdrop of the Brazilian President writing to PM Modi for two million doses of the immunizer produced by the SII.