Coronavirus | India begins COVID-19 vaccine shipment for six countries


Maldives and Bhutan receive Covishield consignments. Bangladesh and Nepal will get them on Thursday followed by Myanmar and Seychelles

India on Wednesday began the delivery of COVID-19 vaccines to six “neighbouring and key partner countries”. The delivery began with two special flights carrying the first consignments of Covishield to the Maldives and Bhutan. Sources said Bangladesh and Nepal will receive two large consignments of the same vaccine on Thursday followed by supplies to Myanmar and Seychelles.

As part of the vaccine diplomacy, a consignment of 1,50,000 doses reached Thimphu on Wednesday. Bhutan is the first country to receive the vaccine manufactured by Pune-based Serum Institute of India (SII). The vaccine is part of an overall programme to build Bhutanese capacity to fight the pandemic. On the request of Bhutan, India has also fast-tracked the release of ₹501 crore for Thimphu’s “reprioritised projects” to meet the emerging challenges caused by the pandemic.

Later on Wednesday, a consignment of 1,00,000 doses was received at the Male airport by Foreign Minister Abdulla Shahid and Health Minister Ahmed Naseem. “Maldives is [among] the first to receive the COVID-19 vaccine. It’s a gift from India. India has proved to be a solid friend of the Maldives. India gave us support when our students had to be evacuated from Wuhan in China. In this difficult circumstances, India is the first country. We thank India for supporting us always in our challenging moments,” said Mr. Shahid.

In a press statement, the High Commission of India in Male said, “India gifted 1,00,000 doses of the India-manufactured COVID-19 vaccine to the Maldives today to meet the immediate requirements of vaccinating healthcare workers, frontline workers and those with comorbidities.”

India will ‘gift’ one million doses of Covishield to Nepal and two million doses to Dhaka on Thursday. The Health Department of Bangladesh had earlier announced that it was expecting the vaccine on Wednesday but the delivery was finally slotted for Thursday.

Listen: Explaining India’s Vaccine Diplomacy, in the neighbourhood and beyond | The Hindu In Focus Podcast

At a joint press conference with Ambassador to Kathmandu Vinay Mohan Kwatra, Public Health Minister of Nepal Hridayesh Tripathi said the announcement of the ‘gift’ of the vaccine is a ‘wonder’. The announcement came days after Foreign Minister Pradeep Kumar Gyawali placed requirement of the vaccine.

The Ministry of External Affairs on Tuesday declared that India will continue to supply vaccine to “neighbouring and key partner countries”, “keeping in view the domestic requirements of the phased rollout”.

“It will be ensured that domestic manufacturers will have adequate stocks to meet domestic requirements while supplying abroad,” said the Ministry of External Affairs on Tuesday informing that India has also carried out capacity building and training workshops for several neighbouring countries to “enhance and strengthen their clinical capabilities”.

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