India plans to ship off doses of Covid vaccine to its neighbours as part of its vaccine diplomacy in a couple of weeks, the Times of India reported.
The first destinations would be in India’s immediate neighbourhood, like Nepal, Bhutan, Bangladesh, Myanmar, Sri Lanka, Afghanistan, Maldives and Mauritius to help them kickstart their own vaccination processes against the coronavirus.
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.
India started its own Covid vaccination drive on Saturday, with almost 1.9 lakh people getting inoculated on the first day.
Nepal is the latest to ask for Covid vaccines from the government. Myanmar government declared they had signed up with Serum Institute for vaccines as has Bangladesh.
Foreign minister S Jaishankar promised the Sri Lankan leadership India would make vaccines available to them too.
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. So Brazil’s Fiocruz Institute has signed a deal with Serum Institute. So have other countries — UAE, Saudi Arabia, Morocco, South Africa among others. The only catch is, they need export clearance from the Indian government first.
The decision is being undertaken by the inter-ministerial body, National Expert Group on Vaccine Administration for Covid-19 (NEGVAC), which includes the foreign secretary, and headed by VK Paul of Niti Aayog.