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India begins Covid-19 vaccine diplomacy, first doses in Bhutan, Maldives

Bhutan and Maldives will be the first to get the vaccines from Wednesday, followed by Bangladesh, Nepal, Myanmar and Seychelles. Sri Lanka, Afghanistan and Mauritius will also get doses once they give necessary regulatory approvals.

Written by Shubhajit Roy | New Delhi |
Updated: January 20, 2021 1:57:55 pm
India begins vaccine diplomacy, first doses in Bhutan, MaldivesWorkers unload from a plane the first consignment of Covishield vaccines, dispatched from Serum Institue of India. (PTI)

India will officially begin its vaccine diplomacy on Wednesday by supplying Made-in-India Covid-19 vaccines to its neighbouring and key partner countries.

Bhutan and Maldives will be the first to get the vaccines from Wednesday, followed by Bangladesh, Nepal, Myanmar and Seychelles. Sri Lanka, Afghanistan and Mauritius will also get doses once they give necessary regulatory approvals.

A consignment containing 1 lakh doses of Covishield vaccines will reach Male on January 20. With this, Maldives, along with Bhutan, will become the first recipient of the Indian government’s gift, manufactured by the Serum Institute of India (SII).

New Delhi wants to portray this exercise as yet another testament to its Neighbourhood First policy — the government is going to brand it “Vaccine Maitri”.

Pakistan has not been named as a neighbouring country which will get the vaccine though Islamabad is exploring options to get it through a global alliance or bilateral arrangements.

Announcing the move, Prime Minister Narendra Modi 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.”

External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar tweeted, “India fulfils commitment to give vaccines to humanity. Supplies to our neighbours will start on 20th January. The Pharmacy of the World will deliver to overcome the COVID challenge.” According to MEA, the government has received several requests for the supply of Indian manufactured vaccines from neighbouring and key partner countries.

“In response to these requests, and in keeping with India’s stated commitment to use India’s vaccine production and delivery capacity to help all of humanity fight the Covid pandemic, supplies under grant assistance to Bhutan, Maldives, Bangladesh, Nepal, Myanmar and Seychelles will begin from 20 January 2021. In respect of Sri Lanka, Afghanistan and Mauritius, we are awaiting their confirmation of necessary regulatory clearances,” the MEA said in a statement.

The ministry said that the immunisation programme is being implemented in India, as in other countries, in a phased manner to cover the healthcare providers, frontline workers and the most vulnerable. Keeping in view the domestic requirements of the phased rollout, India will continue to supply vaccines to partner countries in a phased manner.

“It will ensure that domestic manufacturers will have adequate stocks to meet domestic requirements while supplying abroad,” it said.

In the ongoing effort, India will continue to supply countries all over the world with vaccines. “This will be calibrated against domestic requirements and international demand and obligations, including under GAVI’s Covax facility to developing countries,” it said. Prior to the delivery of vaccines, a training programme, covering administrative and operational aspects, is being conducted on Wednesday and Thursday for immunisation managers, cold chain officers, communication officers and data managers of the recipient countries, both at national and provincial levels.

India had earlier supplied Hydroxychloroquine, Remdesivir and Paracetamol tablets, as well as diagnostic kits, ventilators, masks, gloves and other medical supplies to a large number of countries during the pandemic.

India has also provided training to several neighbouring countries to enhance and strengthen their clinical capabilities, under the Partnerships for Accelerating Clinical Trials (PACT) programme.

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