In the next few weeks, India will give millions of doses of COVID-19 vaccine to South Asian countries. India is using its strength as one of the world’s biggest makers of generic drugs to build friendships.
The Ministry of External Affairs said the government has received requests from several countries for Made in India COVID-19 vaccines. While Oxford-AstraZeneca’s Covishield is being manufactured by the Serum Institute, Covaxin is being produced by Bharat Biotech. Free shipments of AstraZeneca’s vaccine, according to Reuters, have begun arriving in the Maldives, Bhutan, Bangladesh and Nepal.
The government said India will continue supplying vaccines to partner countries in a phased manner over the coming weeks and months. “It will be ensured that domestic manufacturers will have adequate stocks to meet domestic requirements while supplying aboard,” the MEA said in a statement.
A government source confirmed that India is considering giving away from 12 million to 20 million shots to its neighbours in the first wave of assistance over the next three to four weeks. He said India is also helping with the training of health workers in some of these countries and the setting up of the infrastructure to administer the shots.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi in a tweet said that India is deeply honored to be a long-trusted partner in meeting the healthcare needs of the global community. “Supplies of COVID-19 vaccines to several countries will commence tomorrow, and more will follow in the days ahead. #VaccineMaitri.”
Showering praises on India’s initiative, Nepal’s Minister for Health and Population Hridayesh Tripathi said the government of India has shown goodwill by providing the vaccine in grant. He said this is at the people’s level, it is the public who are suffering the most from COVID-19. Initially, China had promised to help Nepal, and as such Beijing is awaiting Nepali clearance for its Sinopharm shots. Santosh KC, spokesman for Nepal’s department of drug administration, told Reuters that they have asked China to submit more documents and information before they give them the approval.
Bangladesh was also to receive 110,000 doses of free vaccine from the Chinese firm – Sinovac Biotech, but Dhaka refused to contribute towards the development cost of the vaccine, resulting in a deadlock. As such, Bangladesh has turned to India for urgent supplies, and was due to receive two million shots of the AstraZeneca vaccine as a gift from India. A Bangladeshi health official said the AstraZeneca vaccine can be stored and transported at normal refrigerated temperatures. Likewise, Sri Lanka and Maldives are also turning to India for the vaccine.