January 26, 2021 5:45:01 am
In what is being seen as a diplomatic goodwill gesture, India has offered made-in-India Covid-19 vaccines for foreign diplomatic corps in the country. This offer has been extended to Pakistan and Chinese missions as well.
So far, the government has been vaccinating its health workers, and the number crossed 15 lakh over the weekend. But in a letter sent to the diplomatic missions based in Delhi, the Ministry of External Affairs has said that it is considering offering vaccinations for foreign diplomats based in India and their families.
“The Government of India, as a gesture of goodwill and solidarity, is considering to offer Covid-19 vaccination to eligible foreign diplomats and their family members accredited to all Diplomatic Missions, including Consulates, United Nations and its specialised agencies and other international organisations, based in India,” a letter from the Ministry of External Affairs said.
“The vaccination would be on a voluntary basis, and in accordance with the phased plan of domestic roll-out,” it said.
However, it has also said that it will be “voluntary” for them to take the offer — a pre-condition that remains the same for the general population in India so far.
The letter also said modalities, including a timeframe and venues, are being worked out. The diplomats were asked to provide certain details, such as co-morbidities.
Sources told The Indian Express that India has enough stock to give vaccines to diplomats and their families, which would number about 10,000. The number could be a little higher if the consulates in different parts of the country are also taken into account.
With this move, the government is looking at generating a goodwill, but also in instilling “vaccine confidence” among the general public, sources said.
So far, India has approved two vaccines that are made in India — Serum Institute’s Oxford Astrazeneca (Covishield) and Bharat Biotech’s Covaxin.
Diplomats told The Indian Express that they welcomed the gesture, and will take a call after consulting their capitals. While some of the foreign diplomats have already been vaccinated in their home country over the last one month or so, most of them have not been.
It will also depend on whether their government has approved the made-in-India vaccines or not.
Sources said that the vaccination for diplomats is a move in continuation of the “vaccine diplomacy”.
India has so far sent about 50 lakh vaccines to countries in the neighbourhood, including Bangladesh and Myanmar. It also plans to provide more doses as grant assistance to Afghanistan and Sri Lanka.
Commercial supplies of vaccines began with the rolling out of two million doses each to Brazil and Morocco and more supplies are expected to be sent in the coming days to South Africa, Saudi Arabia and Bangladesh.
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