NATIONAL

‘Indian vaccines ready to save humanity’

Amid the global pursuit of coronavirus vaccines, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Saturday said India was ready to save humanity by providing to the rest of the world two Indian-manufactured vaccines, Covishield and Covaxin, cleared for emergency use.

“India used to import PPE kits, masks, ventilators and testing kits from outside but today our nation is self-reliant. Today, India is ready to save humanity with two ‘Made in India’ coronavirus vaccines,” Mr. Modi told the Indian diaspora, inaugurating the Pravasi Bharatiya Divas over videoconference, in which Suriname President Chandrikapersad Santokhi was chief guest.

Mr. Modi lauded Indian-origin citizens around the world, who he said were at the forefront of the fight against the coronavirus pandemic. He also said that Indian-origin leaders were trusted in their countries for social and political leadership. In his speech, he also praised India’s “vibrant and strong democracy”, and its role as a leading pharmaceutical and vaccine producer.

“Being the pharmacy of the world, India has supplied important medicines to all those in need in the world in the past and is also doing so now. The world is not only waiting for Indian vaccines but also watching how India runs the world biggest vaccination programme,” Mr. Modi said, referring to India’s plans to roll out a vaccination programme that the government says will begin by mid-January and inoculate 300 million people by July 2021.

The Drugs Controller General of India on January 3 approved two vaccines — Covishield, the vaccine developed by U.K.’s AstraZeneca and Oxford University, being manufactured by Serum Institute of India (SII), and Covaxin, manufactured by Bharat Biotech.

However, the government has not yet announced any purchase contract with either of the two, nor is it clear how soon the production capacity for both internal consumption and export orders will be reached. Last week, the SII said it had stockpiled 50 million doses, while Bharat Biotech said it had readied 10 million doses.

Global interest

Mr. Modi’s statement comes even as various countries have expressed their interest in procuring vaccines from Indian companies.

External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar announced that Sri Lanka would be given priority for the vaccines after a meeting with Sri Lankan President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, who had asked India for supplies.

Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi said in a New Year’s address to her nation that the contract for Indian vaccines had been signed, and her government was ready to import them once India issued the necessary clearances for their export.

Next week, Nepal Foreign Minister Pradeep Gyawali is expected to discuss procurement of the Indian vaccines and possibly sign a contract for them. Meanwhile, Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro has written a letter to Mr. Modi, asking India to expedite the export of two million vaccine doses that had been ordered from SII .

“There is understandably interest in many countries to access vaccines from India,” said External Affairs Ministry spokesperson Anurag Srivastava on Friday.

“India sees international cooperation in this field, particularly with neighbours, as its duty. In our neighbourhood, we have already provided medicines and other essentials and training assistance for experts. As we roll out vaccines, the Prime Minister’s announcement needs to be noted,” he added.