New Delhi: The Modi government Monday decided to export Covid-19 vaccines to its neighbouring countries free-of-cost as a “goodwill” gesture, ThePrint has learnt.
The two vaccines approved in India on 3 January are Covishield and Covaxin. While Covishield is Oxford-AstraZeneca’s vaccine manufactured by Pune-based Serum Institute of India (SII), Covaxin is manufactured by Bharat Biotech, and co-developed with the Indian Council of Medical Research.
On Monday, officials from the Ministry of External Affairs, Ministry of Health and Family Welfare and Ministry of Chemicals and Fertilizers (parent ministry of the Department of Pharmaceuticals) met the representatives of Bharat Biotech and SII to discuss the export plan.
The government has decided to send the first tranche to help the countries “meet their immediate requirements”, official sources told ThePrint.
“As a goodwill gesture, the government is planning to send Covaxin to Mongolia, Oman, Myanmar, Philippines, Bahrain, Maldives and Mauritius,” said a senior official, who was part of the meeting.
“Covishield will be sent to Bhutan, Afghanistan, Nepal, Bangladesh, and Seychelles,” the official added.
The officials also discussed the availability of vaccines for domestic consumption after exports.
“We have decided that till now, half of the approved doses from Central Drugs Laboratory can be exported. Every country will only be given as per the requirement they have cited. Around 5 crore are available in stock with India of which 2.5 crore can be exported,” he said.
The government will procure the vaccines for export through the government-run pharmaceutical company, HLL Lifecare Limited. It had exported hydroxychloroquine (HCQ), last year through the same company.
ThePrint reached Minister of State for Chemical and Fertilizers Mansukh Mandaviya’s office through text and calls for an official comment on the matter, but there was no response till the time of publishing this report.
Dispatches to be done shortly
The dispatches will be done to all the neighbours, except Pakistan, in the coming days and weeks, said a second official, without revealing the exact timeline.
“Pakistan will not be given the vaccines since they did not ask for it from the Indian government,” he added.
According to both officials, India will adopt the same model it had adopted while exporting HCQ.
“The government will follow the same model as it was done during the exports of hydroxychloroquine (HCQ) at the height of the pandemic,” the official said, adding that the first requirements of exports to least developed countries will be free-of-cost, following which the subsequent shipments will be done on commercial terms.
“Countries that can afford the vaccines will not be given free-of-cost,” the second official said.