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‘Pharmacy of the world’ India starts Covid vaccine exports with shipment to neighbour Bhutan

The Independent logo The Independent 20/01/2021 Stuti Mishra
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India on Wednesday began to export coronavirus shots to its neighbours, with the first shipment set to reach Bhutan and Maldives, less than a week after it started its own vaccination drive — said to be the largest in the world.    

“First consignment takes off for Bhutan!” Anurag Srivastava, spokesman for the Ministry of External Affairs of India, said on Twitter. “India begins supply of Covid vaccines to its neighbouring and key partner countries.”

"The pharmacy of the world will deliver to overcome the Covid challenge," foreign minister, S Jaishankar, tweeted, referring to the exports.

According to media reports, the consignment took off from the city of Mumbai in the state of Maharashtra for Bhutan’s capital Thimpu, and contained one millions doses of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine, which is locally produced as “Covishield” by Serum Institute of India (SII), the world’s largest vaccine maker.

India on Saturday began the process of inoculation after giving emergency approval to two vaccines. Apart from Covishield, another homegrown vaccine called “Covaxin,'' produced by Bharat Biotech, also received approval. The country is likely to provide approvals to two more vaccines. However, it is only exporting Covishield at the moment.

Another vaccine consignment containing 100,000 doses took off for Male in Maldives and is supposed to reach on Thursday, Mohammad Nasheed, president of the Maldives, confirmed on Twitter.

“Today, an Air India plane will land in Male with 100,000 doses of AstraZeneca vaccine - a gift from India,” Mr Nasheed said. “For Maldives it’s the beginning of the end of this terrible virus. During tsunami, ‘88 coup, water crisis or corona, India has been our first responder and dependable friend,” he said.

Several low and middle income countries are looking at India, which produces 60 per cent of the world’s vaccines, for supplies of Covid-19 jabs. Earlier, the foreign ministry said in a statement that Bangladesh, Nepal, Myanmar and the Seychelles have also requested for vaccines and delivery may begin from Thursday.

Other countries that have requested vaccines include Sri Lanka, Afghanistan and Mauritius, according to the ministry, but their regulatory clearances are awaited.

Pakistan, which gave emergency approval to the Chinese vaccine yesterday, has not been named as a neighbouring country which will receive the vaccine.

India, the world's second-most populous country, has also reported the second biggest caseload of coronavirus after the US with 10.5 million cases. 

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