India will give coronavirus vaccines for free to neighbouring countries Bhutan and Bangladesh, reported Mint.
The Indian government will provide vaccines for free to Bhutan, The Bhutanese reported, quoting Prime Minister Lotay Tshering, on Monday. The prime minister will pay from his personal resources if the country has to procure the vaccines, it added.
“If we have to buy the vaccines then we may have to spend USD 6 mn [Rs 43.89 crore],” the newspaper said, quoting Tshering. “His Majesty was informed by the GoI [Government of India] that they value the old ties with Bhutan and will help Bhutan. We have told GoI that we plan to vaccinate the whole eligible population in one go and they said they understand.”
Meanwhile, Bangladesh said it will receive 20 lakh doses of coronavirus vaccine Covishield, manufactured by Pune’s Serum Institute, as a gift from India, according to India Today.
“The vaccine that is supposed to be given as a gift is coming on Wednesday,” Bangladesh Health Secretary Abdul Mannan said on Monday. “We are getting 20 lakh doses. Vaccines from the Serum Institute of India. This vaccine is in addition to the agreement we have.”
On January 8, Bangladesh had approved the procurement of 30 million, or 3 crore, doses of Covishield vaccine from India.
India is also likely to give vaccines to Nepal. The Nepal government had last week approved the emergency use of the Covishield vaccine. Following the approval, the Nepal Embassy said that the Indian side has assured that the “requirements of Nepal would be in priority consideration after the roll-out of vaccines”.
The Indian government has not made statements regarding the delivery of the vaccines to its neighbours. However, Prime Minister Narendra Modi hinted at helping the neighbours in his tweets.
Replying to a tweet by Maldives President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih congratulating India over the roll-out of the coronavirus vaccines, Modi tweeted: “The vaccines being developed and manufactured in India will help our people as well as humanity at large in escaping from the pandemic.”
Similarly, in a reply to Sri Lankan President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, Modi said: “We will continue to give due importance to our Neighborhood First policy while collectively fighting the pandemic.”
India began its inoculation drive against the coronavirus on January 16. A total of 3,81,305 beneficiaries have been vaccinated, as of 5 pm on Monday.
India plans to vaccinate around 30 crore people with two doses in the first six to eight months of the year. The recipients include 3 crore doctors, nurses and other front-line workers, to be followed by people who are either over 50 or have illnesses that make them vulnerable to Covid-19.
Two vaccines are being used for the immunisation programme – the Oxford University-AstraZeneca Covishield, produced by the Serum Institute of India, and Covaxin, a government-backed, indigenous one from Bharat Biotech.