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India’s neighbours receive vaccines, thank PM Modi

Bhutan receives Covid-19 vaccines from India (@DrSJaishankar Twitter)

India’s neighbours are gearing up to start their Covid19 inoculation drive within the next few days as consignments of ‘Made in India’ Covishield vaccines reached them as part of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Neighbours’ First policy. While Bhutan and Maldives received their consignments on Wednesday, the much awaited jabs reached Bangladesh and Nepal on Thursday. While Bangladesh received 20 lakh doses as a “gift from India”, Nepal got 10 lakh. Sources said that India is willing to supply Covid 19 vaccines even to Pakistan and China, if the need arises.

“The government is open to supplying Covid 19 vaccines to countries that are in need, political differences and tensions do not play a part in this. This is a humanitarian drive and it is important to put an end to this pandemic in this region,” an insider, on condition of anonymity told IndiaNarrative.com.

“Indian vaccines are safe and have proved that there are little side effects,” the person said.

He added that while priority has been given to India’s neighbours, New Delhi will not hesitate to supply vaccines to other Covid-19 affected countries as well. However, those consignments may not be under the “grant assistance” programme.

Earlier, China, despite the on-going border tension with India, supported New Delhi’s move seeking a waiver from patent protections for Covid 19 vaccines. India along with South Africa underlined the need for the vaccines to be available in large quantities so that they can reach as many people as possible across the globe.

Already as many as 92 countries have approached India for the vaccine.

Meanwhile, Bhutan, which was the first country to receive the Oxford University-AstraZeneca developed vaccines which have been manufactured in India by the Serum Institute of India (SII). The consignment with 1,50,000 doses was delivered by an Indian Air Force plane.

"As we celebrate the arrival of the vaccine as the new milestone in our battle to beat the pandemic at home, we applaud the gesture that signifies the compassion and generosity of the Prime Minister of India Narendra Modi, and the people of India for the wellbeing of the humanity," Bhutan's Prime Minister Lotay Tshering tweeted after receiving the vaccines. He said it is a gift from a 'trusted friend'. He added, “It is of unimaginable value when precious commodities are shared even before meeting your own needs, as opposed to giving out only after you have enough."

Maldives’ first democratically elected President Mohamed Nasheed too tweeted thanking Prime Minister Narendra Modi. “I sincerely thank Prime Minister Modi @PMOIndia and his Government for prioritizing regional safety and aiding neighbouring countries so swiftly.” Nasheed wrote.

Dhaka, which has received the first 20 lakk doses as “gift” from India will get another 15 lakh doses through a deal signed between Bangladesh’s Beximco Pharmaceuticals and SII.

Another source said that India is particularly keen to assist Bangladesh in the Coronavirus struggles as the country enters its 50th year of independence. Modi is also slated to be present in the year-long celebrations to be kicked off on March 26.

India, touted as the pharmacy of the world, supplies over 50 per cent of global demand for various vaccines, 40 per cent of generic demand in the US and 25 per cent of all medicine in the UK, according to India Brand Equity Foundation.

“One of the main benefits is the pricing—it is lower than many other global manufacturers, in the years to come, the government is expected to strengthen this area even more and create an environment conducive for production of active pharmaceutical ingredients (API) – the active ingredient in drugs — which are largely imported.