Syringes and ice packs are seen inside a vaccination box at a temporary vaccination centre in Mumbai, India. File/Reuters
Gulf Today Report
India started exporting coronavirus shots on Wednesday with a shipment to the neighbouring Himalayan kingdom of Bhutan, the foreign ministry said, as the so-called pharmacy of the world looks to bolster its vaccine diplomacy.
Many low and middle-income countries are relying on India, the world's biggest vaccine maker, for supplies to start COVID-19 immunisation programmes and bring an end to their outbreaks, according to Reuters.
“First consignment takes off for Bhutan!” Anurag Srivastava, spokesman for the Ministry of External Affairs, said on Twitter. “India begins supply of Covid vaccines to its neighbouring and key partner countries.”
An official displays a vial containing COVISHIELD, a coronavirus vaccine, in Ahmedabad, India. File/Reutes
The ministry said on Tuesday "supplies under grant assistance" would be shipped to the Maldives, Bangladesh, Nepal, Myanmar and the Seychelles, while Sri Lanka, Afghanistan and Mauritius await regulatory clearances to receive the vaccines.
India authorised two vaccines this month for emergency use at home, one licensed 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 initially will only ship the AstraZeneca vaccine, made by the Serum Institute of India, the world's biggest vaccine maker, which brands the shot as COVISHIELD.
Officials unload boxes containing vials of COVISHIELD, a coronavirus vaccine, in Ahmedabad, India. Reuters
Bangladesh said it expected to receive a gift of two million doses of COVISHIELD on Thursday. The country of more than 160 million has yet to start its vaccination programme and has ordered a further 30 million doses of the shot.
India, which has reported the highest number of coronavirus infections after the United States, has so far vaccinated more than 631,417 frontline workers.
The world's second-most populous country reported on Wednesday 13,823 new cases, taking the total to 10.9 million. The number of deaths from the disease rose by 162 to 152,718, data from the health ministry showed.
"The Pharmacy of the World will deliver to overcome the COVID challenge," Foreign Minister S. Jaishankar said on Twitter, referring to exports.
India’s government has proposed to increase spending on health care in a $477 billion budget for 2021-22 that promises extra help for weathering the coronavirus pandemic.
The COVID-19 global outbreak heavily dented India’s merchandise exports in April, as they plunged by over 60 per cent on a year-on-year basis to $10.36 billion from $26.07 billion reported for the corresponding period of the previous year.
Sluggish global demand pulled India’s merchandise exports lower by 6.05 per cent in August on a year-on-year basis. As per the data furnished by the Ministry of Commerce & Industry,
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