India has started exporting Covid-19 vaccines from Wednesday, paving the way for many neighbouring countries to get supplies of the easy-to-store Oxford/AstraZeneca drug, of which it plans to ship millions of doses within days.
Bhutan and Maldives will be the first to get the vaccines from Wednesday, followed by Bangladesh, Nepal, Myanmar and Seychelles. Sri Lanka, Afghanistan and Mauritius will also get doses once they give necessary regulatory approvals.
According to the sources, a consignment containing 1,50,000 doses of Covishield will reach Thimphu on Wednesday. Bhutan is the first country to receive the government of India’s gift of the Covid vaccines, manufactured by Serum Institute of India.
In line with India-Bhutan unique and special relations, India ensured a continuous supply of trade and essential items to Bhutan, despite COVID-19 restrictions.
The Bangladesh foreign ministry said it expected to receive a gift of two million doses on January 21. The country of 160 million, which is yet to start its vaccination programme, has ordered a further 30 million doses, officials said.
The Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine is widely viewed as their best option because the other two, manufactured by Pfizer/BioNTech and by Moderna, need to be stored at very low temperatures.
Pakistan is alone among India’s neighbours where it has no plans to send vaccine doses, and a government in New Delhi source said no request had come from there.