India, 'pharmacy of the world', starts COVID vaccine shipments to neighbours
January 20, 2021 05:09 PM NPT
A doctor poses after receiving a dose of the Bharat Biotech's coronavirus disease (COVID-19) vaccine, called COVAXIN, at a government-run hospital in New Delhi, India, January 19, 2021. REUTERS/Anushree Fadnavis
NEW DELHI, Jan 20: India started delivering coronavirus vaccines to its neighbours on Wednesday, the foreign ministry said, flagging off a drive to garner goodwill in an often fractious region with the first shipment sent to the tiny Himalayan kingdom of Bhutan.
India authorised two vaccines this month for emergency use at home, one licensed from Oxford University and AstraZeneca and another developed at home by Bharat Biotech in partnership with the state-run Indian Council of Medical Research. Both are manufactured locally.
At least two other vaccines are expected to be authorised by India in the next few months.
India initially will only ship the AstraZeneca vaccine, made by the Serum Institute of India, the world’s biggest vaccine maker, which brands the shot as COVISHIELD.
Bangladesh said it expected to receive a gift of two million doses of COVISHIELD from India on Thursday. The country of more than 160 million has yet to start its vaccination programme and has ordered a further 30 million doses of the shot.
Nepal said it has been pledged one million doses free of charge by India.
Pakistan has approved for emergency use the Chinese Sinopharm COVID-19 vaccine and another developed by AstraZeneca and Oxford University, but has not got any supplies yet.
India, which has reported the highest number of coronavirus infections after the United States, has so far vaccinated more than 631,417 frontline workers after starting the campaign on Saturday.
The world’s second-most populous country reported on Wednesday 13,823 new cases, taking the total to 10.9 million. The number of deaths from the disease rose by 162 to 152,718, data from the health ministry showed.
The government has urged frontline workers not to refuse the vaccines, after almost all states failed to meet their targets in the first few days of the immunisation drive.
Many people have declined to take the shots, especially the Bharat Biotech vaccine whose efficacy data from late-stage trials are not known, fearing side-effects.
In a survey conducted by New Delhi-based online platform LocalCircles, 62% of 17,000 respondents were hesitant to get vaccinated immediately, mainly due to worries over possible adverse reactions. The government has reported hospitalisation from side effects in only 0.002% of vaccine recipients.