New Delhi: Brazil is all set to become the first country in the world that will receive two million doses of Covishield from India next week that will be flown directly from Mumbai to Rio de Janeiro via a special flight, ThePrint has learnt.
The Jair Bolsonaro administration will be procuring the vaccine at a “special rate” under a deal that was finalised between the Brazilian government and Pune’s Serum Institute of India (SII) earlier this month, diplomatic sources told ThePrint. SII has manufactured the Oxford-AstraZeneca’s Covid-19 vaccine in India.
The deal, sources said, was in the offing for the last few months, but it was finalised only after the arrangement was authorised by the Narendra Modi government earlier this month.
Sources said, the vaccine shipment will leave India only after the Modi government launches the vaccination drive Saturday as India does not want to be seen to be giving priority to other countries over its own people.
According to a Bloomberg report, Brazil’s Health Minister Eduardo Pazuello said that the SII will supply the two million doses of the coronavirus vaccine developed by AstraZeneca and the University of Oxford.
Brazil’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, through its embassy in New Delhi, made arrangements with the Indian authorities and the SII, following a letter from President Bolsonaro to PM Modi on 8 January, and is supporting international travel issues and procedures, stated a press release issued Wednesday by Brazil.
Brazil also plans to produce 100 million vaccines locally, for which it is also in talks with Bharat Biotech as well as SII.
ThePrint reached SII as well as Bharat Biotech through text messages for comments, but did not receive any response till the time of publishing this report.
The Ministry of External Affairs, meanwhile, said “it is too early to give a specific response on the supplies to other countries…”
Brazil to use Covishield to vaccinate health workers
The special flight, operated by Azul Brazilian Airlines, will be carrying the doses from Mumbai to Rio de Janeiro with a stopover in Europe.
In Brazil, the Ministry of Health will take the support of the armed forces for transportation and security of the vaccines, sources said.
Brazil plans to distribute these two million doses to frontline health workers and elderly people free-of-cost under a priority programme.
Too early to give a specific response: MEA
Asked about India sending vaccines to Brazil, Anurag Srivastava, Spokesperson, MEA, Thursday said “it is too early to give a specific response on the supplies to other countries as we are still assessing production schedules and availability to take decisions in this regard. This may take some time”.
“… so far as requests from countries for vaccines from India, you would recall that the prime minister has already stated that India’s vaccine production and delivery capacity would be used for the benefit of all humanity in fighting this crisis,” Srivastava said at a press conference.
ThePrint had reported that the government is planning to follow the “HCQ model” to distribute its Covid-19 vaccines within the immediate neighbourhood and beyond by March as by that time it will be able to vaccinate the priority groups in the country, and more producers will come out with their own vaccines.
India has committed that it will give the vaccine to Bangladesh, Bhutan, Nepal, Sri Lanka and Afghanistan, among others, on a priority basis.
Earlier this week, the Health Ministry said the government has procured 1.1 crore shots of Covishield and 55 lakh doses of Covaxin.
Meanwhile, a Bloomberg report Thursday stated that India plans to offer 20 million doses of coronavirus vaccine to its neighbours as it draws up a policy to supply vials to countries across the globe.
An Indian state-run company will buy vaccines from the Serum Institute of India Ltd. and Bharat Biotech International Ltd. for supplying to Nepal, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Afghanistan, Seychelles and Mauritius, the report said.
Some of the supplies may be free and treated as aid, the report added.
The first batch of the vials will be shipped over the next two weeks, it said. The government will then offer the vaccines to countries in Latin America, Africa and the former Soviet republics.
(With inputs from Himani Chandna)