India is set to resume export under “Vaccine Maitri” in the fourth quarter starting from October
India will give top priority to Bangladesh under its "neighbouring (countries will be) first” policy when the largest Covid-19 vaccine producing country is set to resume exports next month.
The world's biggest manufacturer of vaccines, India will contribute to the Covax programme under the World Health Organization (WHO).
It stopped exports of Covid shots in April to focus on inoculating its own population as infections exploded.
The Indian High Commissioner to Bangladesh, Vikram Doraiswami, said that the Indian health minister had made the announcement in the context of the current inoculation totals achieved in India's current vaccination drive and the scaling-up of production in the country.
He specified that a "neighbouring (countries will be) first" policy would be followed.
Thus, supplies should start in reasonable quantities soon, with priority partners like Bangladesh being among the earliest recipients, he added.
“It is relevant to note here that these will be among the first vaccine exports from India since April 2021,” Doraiswami told Dhaka Tribune on Monday evening.
To ensure that citizens received the jab as early as possible, Bangladesh signed a commercial deal with SII in 2020 to buy 30 million doses of the vaccine when ready.
According to the contract, Dhaka was supposed to get 5 million shots per month from January to June this year.
But Bangladesh only received 7 million doses under the deal in the first two months of the year, according to data from India's Foreign Ministry. The Indian government donated the other 3 million doses.
Indian Union Health Minister Mansukh Mandaviya on Monday said that India would be resuming the export of vaccines under “Vaccine Maitri” in the fourth quarter starting from October.
He said that vaccine export would resume to fulfil the commitment towards Covax in line with the motto “Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam” (the world is one family).
The decision to restart vaccine export has come ahead of PM Modi’s visit to Washington starting on Tuesday where vaccines are likely to be discussed at a summit of the leaders of the Quad countries.
Mandaviya said that the surplus supply of vaccines would be used to fulfil the commitment towards the world for the collective fight against Covid-19.
The Covax scheme is co-led by Gavi, the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI) and the WHO.
Bangladesh last year entered into a deal with Serum Institute of India (SII) to acquire 30 million doses of a potential vaccine being developed by AstraZeneca for Covid-19.
SII and Bangladesh’s drugmaker Beximco Pharma signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) for priority delivery of the vaccine doses.
Under the deal, Beximco was supposed to purchase five million doses of vaccines per month. SII supplied the vaccines at a price of around $4 to $5 per dose, a rate similar to what India pays.
It partnered with AstraZeneca, the Gates Foundation and the Gavi vaccine alliance to produce a billion Covid-19 vaccines for supply worldwide.
In September, SII expanded its alliance with Gavi and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to produce and deliver up to an additional 100 million doses for low-and middle-income countries (LMICs).