India has informed the UN Security Council that it will gradually supply vaccines to the COVAX facility of the World Health Organisation and undertake contractual supplies to various countries in a phased manner, as more than six million doses have been airlifted to nine countries under New Delhi’s “vaccine diplomacy.”
“As the largest vaccine-producing country of the world, we are fulfilling our commitment to make our vaccine production and delivery capacity available for the benefit of the entire humanity,” India’s Deputy Permanent Representative to the UN Ambassador K Nagaraj Naidu said on Monday.
Speaking at the UN Security Council briefing on ‘Maintenance of international peace and security : Follow-up on the implementation of resolution 2532”, Naidu said two vaccines have already been granted approval for emergency use in India and the country plans to vaccinate about 300 million citizens in the first six months.
Resolution 2532 (2020), adopted in July 2020, expressed support for the Secretary-General’s appeal for a global ceasefire to help unite efforts to fight COVID-19 in the world”s most vulnerable countries.
“We have already airlifted more than 6 million doses to nine countries in Phase-I as grant assistance. Contractual supplies to various countries are also being undertaken in a phased manner. We will also gradually supply to the COVAX facility of the WHO,” Mr Naidu said, adding that India has also provided training to several partner countries to strengthen their clinical capabilities, as well as to enhance their capacities for vaccine administration.
COVAX is the global initiative to ensure rapid and equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines for all countries, regardless of income level.
Last week, COVAX had announced that, pending WHO emergency use listings, nearly 150 million doses of the AstraZeneca/Oxford candidate are anticipated to be available in the first quarter of 2021, via existing agreements with the Serum Institute of India (SII) and AstraZeneca.
Mr Naidu told the Council that India has assisted more than 150 countries through urgent health and medical supplies.
New Delhi has pledged 15 million dollars for GAVI, the Vaccine Alliance, and operationalised the COVID-19 Emergency Fund for its neighbours with an initial contribution of 10 million dollars.
“In the spirit of South-South cooperation, through the USD 150 million India-UN Development Partnership Fund, we have responded to member states” requests for COVID-19 related assistance,” Naidu said.
Mr Naidu underscored that while the pandemic continues to rage across the world, 2021 has started on a positive note with many countries having initiated the vaccination process.
He, however, cautioned that “no one is safe, till everyone is safe. Our endeavor should be to work towards making the vaccine accessible on a universal, equitable and affordable basis.”
Nepal, Bangladesh, Bhutan and the Maldives have received India’s COVID-19 vaccines under grant assistance in sync with its “Neighbourhood First” policy.
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.
Last week, Bangladesh and Nepal received COVID-19 vaccines from India.
India sent 150,000 doses of Covisheild vaccines to Bhutan and 100,000 doses to the Maldives, while over 2 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines were provided to Bangladesh, about one million doses to Nepal. Myanmar received over one million doses and Sri Lanka 500,000.
On Friday, India began commercial exports of COVID-19 vaccines and sent two million doses each to Brazil and Morocco.
Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro has thanked India for supplying COVID-19 vaccines to his country and shared on social media an illustration of Lord Hanuman bringing ”Sanjivani booti” from India to Brazil.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi had replied through a tweet that “The honour is ours, President @jairbolsonaro to be a trusted partner of Brazil in fighting the COVID-19 pandemic together. We will continue to strengthen our cooperation on healthcare.”
In keeping with India’s stated commitment to use India”s vaccine production and delivery capacity to help all of humanity fight the COVID pandemic, supplies under grant assistance to Bhutan, Maldives, Bangladesh, Nepal, Myanmar and Seychelles began from January 20 under the initiative termed “Vaccine Maitri”.
The MEA said that in an ongoing effort, India will continue to supply countries all over the world with vaccines.
“This will be calibrated against domestic requirements and international demand and obligations, including under GAVI’s Covax facility to developing countries,” the MEA had said in a statement.