India has gifted over 55 lakh doses of coronavirus vaccines to its neighbouring countries and several of those in its extended neighbourhood, the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) said on Thursday. MEA Spokesperson Anurag Srivastava said at a media briefing that there has been interest in many countries in accessing vaccines from India and that it considers cooperation in the global fight against the COVID-19 pandemic as its duty.
On Thursday, India sent 5,00,000 vaccine doses to Sri Lanka and 1,00,000 doses to Bahrain as part of grants assistance.
"From January 20 onwards, we have gifted over 55 lakh doses of vaccines to our neighbouring countries and in our extended neighbourhood," Srivastava said.
He said Bhutan has been supplied 1.5 lakh doses so far and Maldives one lakh doses. Nepal and Bangladesh were given 10 lakh and 20 lakh doses respectively.
Srivastava said Myanmar received 15 lakh doses, Mauritius one lakh doses and Seychelles got 50,000 doses.
Frequently Asked Questions
A vaccine works by mimicking a natural infection. A vaccine not only induces immune response to protect people from any future COVID-19 infection, but also helps quickly build herd immunity to put an end to the pandemic. Herd immunity occurs when a sufficient percentage of a population becomes immune to a disease, making the spread of disease from person to person unlikely. The good news is that SARS-CoV-2 virus has been fairly stable, which increases the viability of a vaccine.
There are broadly four types of vaccine — one, a vaccine based on the whole virus (this could be either inactivated, or an attenuated [weakened] virus vaccine); two, a non-replicating viral vector vaccine that uses a benign virus as vector that carries the antigen of SARS-CoV; three, nucleic-acid vaccines that have genetic material like DNA and RNA of antigens like spike protein given to a person, helping human cells decode genetic material and produce the vaccine; and four, protein subunit vaccine wherein the recombinant proteins of SARS-COV-2 along with an adjuvant (booster) is given as a vaccine.
Vaccine development is a long, complex process. Unlike drugs that are given to people with a diseased, vaccines are given to healthy people and also vulnerable sections such as children, pregnant women and the elderly. So rigorous tests are compulsory. History says that the fastest time it took to develop a vaccine is five years, but it usually takes double or sometimes triple that time.
"These supplies are based on requests from these countries," he said.
Over the next few days, Srivastava said India plans to "gift" one lakh doses to Oman, five lakh doses to CARICOM countries and two lakh doses to Nicaragua. The Pacific Island states are also getting two lakh doses.
The Caribbean Community (CARICOM) is a grouping of 20 island nations which are home to approximately 16 million people.
"In line with the prime minister's announcement that India sees international cooperation in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic as its duty, we have played the role of the first responder in our neighbourhood as well as undertaken supplies to countries beyond," Srivastava said.
He said commercial exports have taken place to Brazil, Morocco and Bangladesh and further such supplies are likely to be made to Saudi Arabia, South Africa, Canada and Mongolia.
"Further, we are going to supply 1 crore doses to Africa and 10 lakh to UN health workers under GAVI's COVAX facility," he said.
GAVI is a global vaccine alliance.
"Our external supplies, whether as gifts or on a commercial basis, are based on domestic availability, licensing issues and regulatory approvals in the countries concerned," he added.
Srivastava said India will continue to supply vaccines to partner countries over the coming weeks and months in a phased manner.
"Decisions on these supplies will, of course, be calibrated against the requirements of the roll-out of the COVID-19 vaccine at home," he said.
In a major announcement, India had said on January 19 it would send COVID-19 vaccines under grant assistance to Bhutan, Maldives, Bangladesh, Nepal, Myanmar and Seychelles from January 20 and supplies to Sri Lanka, Afghanistan and Mauritius would commence after confirmation of necessary regulatory clearances.
India is one of the world's biggest drug-makers, and an increasing number of countries have already approached it for procuring the coronavirus vaccines.
India has already rolled out a massive coronavirus vaccination drive under which two vaccines, Covishield and Covaxin, are being administered to frontline health workers across the country.
While Oxford-AstraZeneca's Covishield is being manufactured by the Serum Institute, Covaxin is being produced by Bharat Biotech.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 to help them deal with the pandemic.