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India-made vaccines land in Africa, Ukraine as Covid surges

India sends more vaccines to Africa and other countries

Africa and Ukraine have got added to the list of 25-odd countries that have received India-made vaccines to fight the relentless onslaught of the Covid-19 pandemic. 

India despatched its shipment of the Pune-made Covid-19 vaccines  to Africa under the WHO-backed equitable vaccine distribution network COVAX, the government said.

“Fulfilling our commitment to help the world with COVID-19 vaccines, supplies of Made-in-India vaccine commence today for Africa under COVAX facility,” Anurag Srivastava, spokesman for the Ministry of External Affairs, said on Twitter.

The World Health Organization had earlier this month paved the way for the Oxford University-AstraZeneca vaccine’s global launch by approving emergency use of the product produced by the Serum Institute of India (SII), the world’s biggest vaccine maker.

India, the world’s biggest maker of vaccines, has shipped over 17 million vaccine doses to more than two dozen countries – including around 6 million as gifts to partners such as Bangladesh and Nepal. For its own campaign, New Delhi has so far only ordered 31 million doses.

Ukraine also received its first batch of 500,000 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine on Tuesday, which will enable the country to start its vaccination programme.

Ukraine has lagged behind its neighbours in securing vaccines for its 41 million people, asking European Union member states for help while refusing to buy the Sputnik V vaccine from neighbouring Russia, a country with which it has strained relations.

“We will start vaccination ASAP. We need to fight COVID together,” President Volodymyr Zelenskiy tweeted.

Ukraine has registered more than 1.3 million cases and 25,309 deaths.

“Now we are urgently clearing the cargo through customs and the vaccine will immediately go to the regions,” Health Minister Maksym Stepanov wrote on Facebook.

Ukraine had planned to launch mass vaccinations in mid-February through the global COVAX programme for poorer countries but the government said the roll-out was postponed due to a delay in delivery.

Ukraine has also got AstraZeneca doses produced by the Serum Institute of India, the world largest vaccine manufacturer.

The health ministry said it had agreed to buy a total of 17 million doses of Indian-made vaccines, including 15 million doses of the Novavax shot. SII will also soon start producing the Novavax vaccine mainly for poor and middle-income countries.

Stepanov last week blamed “dirty information attacks” for hampering Ukraine’s vaccine purchases after a corruption investigation was launched into the purchase of Chinese-made vaccinations through a local intermediary.