India initiates COVID vaccine exports
NEW DELHI (DELHI) – India started exporting coronavirus shots on Wednesday, by shipping it to the neighbouring Himalayan kingdom of Bhutan, the foreign ministry said. India, known as the so-called pharmacy of the world aims to boost its vaccine diplomacy.
Many low and middle-income countries are depending on India, the world’s biggest vaccine maker, for supplies to set out on their COVID-19 immunisation programmes and to prevent outbreaks.
“First consignment takes off for Bhutan!” Foreign Ministry spokesman Anurag Srivastava said on Twitter. “India begins supply of Covid vaccines to its neighbouring and key partner countries.”
The ministry said on Tuesday “supplies under grant assistance” would be sent to countries such as Maldives, Bangladesh, Nepal, Myanmar and the Seychelles, while Sri Lanka, Afghanistan and Mauritius are waiting for regulatory clearances to get access to the vaccines.
India authorised two vaccines this month for emergency use at home. One among the licensed is from Oxford University and AstraZeneca and another developed at home by Bharat Biotech in partnership with the state-run Indian Council of Medical Research. Both are manufactured locally.
At least two other vaccines are expected to be authorised by India in the next few months.
India will at first only ship the AstraZeneca vaccine, made by the Serum Institute of India, the world’s biggest vaccine maker, which calls the shot as COVISHIELD.
Bangladesh said it expected to get access to a gift of two million doses of COVISHIELD on Thursday.
India, which has reported the highest number of coronavirus infections after the United States, and has so far provided vaccination to more than 631,417 frontline workers.
Foreign Minister S Jaishankar said on Twitter, referring to exports, “The Pharmacy of the World will deliver to overcome the COVID challenge,” .