Covid vaccine woes: Neighbours look at India for second dose | India News

Covid vaccine woes: Neighbours look at India for second dose | India News
India’s own vaccine woes notwithstanding, the government may have to find a way to bail its key neighbours out even if it means arranging vaccines for them from abroad. Apart from Nepal and Bangladesh, India’s most solid friend in the near Indian Ocean, the Maldives, too is in dire need of help.
According to reliable sources in Male, even the extended 12-week gap for Covishield vaccine second dose is now elapsing for 60,000 people in the archipelago. Similarly, senior Nepal officials told ToI Thursday, there are 1.7 million Nepal citizens who are waiting to be fully vaccinated after taking the first dose.
While expressing understanding of India’s predicament, these countries, along with Bangladesh and Sri Lanka, have been asking India to get the Serum Institute of India (SII) to fulfil its contractual obligations to them. The Maldives needs India to immediately release 100000 doses for which it has an agreement with SII. In the case of Bangladesh, its media has reported that foreign minister S Jaishankar has assured his counterpart AK Abdul Momen he’ll request the US to provide vaccine to Bangladesh.
MEA was silent on queries related to resumption of supplies to the neighbourhood but, on India’s own shortage, it said Thursday the government was in touch with the US for both procurement and scaling up manufacturing of vaccines.
“We remain engaged with US entities on prospects of procuring vaccines from US and perhaps also manufacturing them in India subsequently, this would augment our vaccine availability once this through procurement or subsequent manufacturing,” said MEA spokesperson Arindam Bagchi, responding to queries on India’s own shortage of vaccines. Foreign secretary Harsh Shringla, indicating India’s priority, had said last month that India’s requirement is significant and pressing and “whatever we produce we will need for our domestic vaccine programme”.
The ministry also took note of the US announcement to export 80 million vaccine doses, including 60 million of AstraZeneca/ Covishield, even though it said it had no information to share at this stage on the issue and that all procurement from abroad will be as per “regulatory guidelines”.
While some of India’s neighbours are also approaching the US to meet the shortfall, they still have their hopes pinned on India. “The US may choose to distribute through the GAVI vaccine alliance which will probably go first to those countries who haven’t got any vaccine at all,” said a senior government official of a Saarc country on condition of anonymity.
While India has donated Covishield vaccine to its neighbours, including Nepal, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and the Maldives, these countries had also signed commercial agreements with SII for vaccine purchase. With the spike in cases in India, SII has been unable to honour its commitment and, as it has announced, it’s unlikely to resume export until the end of this year.

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