Publish: 19 Jan 2021, 12:00 pm
As part of the vaccine diplomacy, India plans to ship off Covid-19 vaccines to its immediate neighbours including Bangladesh.
The first shipments would be a “goodwill gesture”, while subsequently, the countries concerned would get on a payment basis from either the Serum Institute or Bharat Biotech.
The decision to start sending vaccine to India’s neighbours was taken by the National Expert Group on Vaccine Administration (NEGVAC), which was constituted by the government of India to guide prioritisation of population groups, procurement and inventory management, vaccine selection and vaccine delivery and tracking mechanism.
The NEGVAC is headed by Niti Aayog member VK Paul while Foreign Secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla has been included in the body.
"Within a fortnight of the rollout of the vaccines, we will allow exports to some of our South Asian neighbours. Some of these exports will be paid by us as gifts, and the others will be supplied at roughly the same price the government will be buying the vaccines at," diplomatic sources said, adding "India is completely conscious of its commitments to neighbours and the rest of the world as the world's biggest vaccine maker."
The first destinations would be in India’s immediate neighbours, like Bangladesh Nepal, Bhutan, Myanmar, Sri Lanka, Afghanistan, Maldives and Mauritius to help them kick start their vaccination processes against the coronavirus.
India started its own Covid-19 vaccination drive on Saturday with almost 2.2 lakh people getting inoculated on the first day. Nepal is the latest to ask for Covid-19 vaccines from the government of India. Myanmar declared they had signed up with Serum Institute for vaccines as has Bangladesh.
External Affairs Minister Dr S Jayshankar promised the Sri Lankan leadership that India would make vaccines available to them too.
Bangladesh Pharmaceutical company Beximco has already signed an agreement with the Pune-based Serum Institute.
Government sources said countries would not be charged much more than Indians are paying for the vaccines even when they do have to pay for the doses. The key is to ensure that India has enough for its own needs before allowing exports of these vaccines.
Foreign countries can draw up purchase deals with the two companies concerned, but officials said these are generally being done between government health entities and the companies.
*The writer is a senior journalist with the Millennium Post daily