You are using an older browser version. Please use a supported version for the best MSN experience.

Bhutan, Maldives first among 6 recipients of Covid vaccine from India

India Today logo India Today 20-01-2021 Geeta Mohan
Narendra Modi looking at the camera

Even in the pandemic, India stayed with her "neighbourhood first" policy and chose Maldives and Bhutan as the first two countries to be provided with Covid-19 vaccines, that will be delivered today (January 20).

Bhutan is the first to receive 1,50,000 Indian-made coronavirus vaccines on Wednesday morning. Maldives will receive 1,00,000 in the afternoon.

On Thursday, Bangladesh and Nepal will get their first consignment, while Myanmar and Seychelles will receive the vaccines on Friday.

Bhutan is the first country to receive the Government of India's (GoI) gift of the 'Covidshield' vaccine, manufactured by the Serum Institute of India (SII), followed by Maldives the same day.

Apart from providing Covid assistance, medicines and vaccines, on the request of the Royal Government of Bhutan, the GoI has also expedited the release of Rs 501 crore for their reprioritised projects to meet the emerging challenges caused by Covid-19, in addition to other fund releases for the ongoing projects.

Since Maldives has a population of about 5,00,000, the donation will cover vaccination requirements of a significant percentage of the population. In addition, the Maldives government proposes to purchase 3,00,000 doses of vaccine from the SII at commercial rates, said sources.

Calling it a 'Vaccine Maitri', which translates to "vaccine friendship", Prime Minister Narendra Modi tweeted, "India is deeply honoured to be a long-trusted partner in meeting the healthcare needs of the global community. Supplies of Covid vaccines to several countries will commence tomorrow, and more will follow in the days ahead. #VaccineMaitri"

Bhutan and Maldives are the first two of the six countries in the neighbourhood that will start receiving vaccine supplies from Wednesday, even as India rolled out the largest immunisation programme in the country on January 16.

"The Government of India has received several requests for the supply of Indian-manufactured vaccines from neighbouring and key partner countries. In response to these requests, and in keeping with India's stated commitment to use its vaccine production and delivery capacity to help all of humanity fight the Covid pandemic, supplies under grant assistance to Bhutan, Maldives, Bangladesh, Nepal, Myanmar and Seychelles will begin from 20 January 2021," said a press release from the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA).

"In respect of Sri Lanka, Afghanistan and Mauritius, we are awaiting their confirmation of necessary regulatory clearances," added the press release.

Sources said that the delivery of these vaccines in Maldives today fulfills the commitment made by the Foreign Secretary during his visit to the Maldives in November 2020, when he had announced that "as a close partner and friend, India would accord priority to Maldives for providing vaccines, whenever these vaccines are ready".

Meanwhile, Bhutan Prime Minister Lotay Tshering said in a statement that his country would wait till doses for the "targetted" population are available. "The plan is to vaccinate all the people together, so we will roll out the nationwide vaccination programme only when we have sufficient doses for all the targetted population," he said.

The roll out will only take place after March 13, he said, adding, "It is important we roll out the nationwide vaccination on an auspicious date. Upon consulting with Zhung Dratshang, we were informed of dana (inauspicious month) which falls between February 14 and March 13. We will wait until the period is over."

India has worked very closely with the Maldives in dealing with the pandemic. Among all neighbours, Maldives was the first and one of the largest beneficiaries of our Covid related assistance. This includes assistance in evacuation of Maldives nationals from Wuhan, supply of essential medicines and food items and deployment of a 14-member Rapid Response Team consisting of doctors and paramedics in March 2020, to guide and train the Maldivian authorities and personnel in tackling the Corona threat.

Prior to the delivery of vaccines, a training programme, covering administrative and operational aspects, was conducted on January 19-20, 2021, for immunisation managers, cold chain officers, communication officers and data managers of the recipient countries, both at national and provincial levels.

India had earlier supplied hydroxychloroquine, Remdesivir and paracetamol tablets, as well as diagnostic kits, ventilators, masks, gloves and other medical supplies to a large number of countries during the Covid-19 pandemic.

India said it is "mindful of domestic needs and all exports will keep internal demands in mind". "In an ongoing effort, India will continue to supply countries all over the world with vaccines. This will be calibrated against domestic requirements and international demand and obligations, including under GAVI's Covax facility to developing countries," the MEA said.

More from India Today

image beaconimage beaconimage beacon