India's vaccine diplomacy is on in full swing. In its phase of international outreach after the vaccines have begun rolling out of Indian laboratories, six countries—Nepal, Bhutan, Bangladesh, Myanmar, Maldives and Seychelles were selected as beneficiaries of India's grant in aid for vaccines, which India has dubbed 'Mission Maitri'.
Today, the first instalment of Covishield vaccines reached Kathmandu and Dhaka. Tomorrow, a gift shipment will fly to Myanmar, Seychelles and Mauritius, and consignments have already been received in Male and Thimphu.
All the doses being gifted under this particular package are the Covishield vaccine, developed by Oxford University and AstraZeneca and manufactured by the Serum Institute of India. Nepal has received ten lakh doses, Bangladesh 20 lakh, Bhutan 1.5 lakh and Maldives one lakh. Myanmar will receive 15 lakh doses, Seychelles 50,000 and an additional one lakh doses will arrive in Mauritius.
India has had to carefully work out the logistics for its vaccine diplomacy, which it will supply both as gifts and at commercial rates, to neighbours and partners. On one hand is the challenge of vaccinating a large chunk of the Indian population, on the other is the promise of sharing with the world.
Indian experts also conducted a two-day training session in administering the vaccine to officials from various countries which will get Made in India vaccines. Participants in the five and a half hour-long session included officials from Bangladesh, Bhutan, Maldives, Mongolia, Myanmar, Nepal, Bahrain, Brazil, Mauritius, Morocco, Oman, Seychelles, and Sri Lanka, as well as representatives from WHO and UNICEF.
The training covered how to set up sites for conducting vaccination camps, vaccine logistics and cold chain management, safe injection practises and waste management. There was also a focus on training health staff to deal with adverse effects following immunisation, crisis management, recording and reporting, and social mobilisation.
India has played a leading role in reaching out to the world during the pandemic, having supplied important medicines like hydroxychloroquine and remdesivir, diagnostic kits and medical equipment, from masks and gloves to ventilators. A lot of these supplies have been given as gifts to partner nations. India has also conducted virtual camps in training health care workers during the pandemic, especially on how to conduct tests.
Under its COVID-19 cooperation, India is in talks with many countries like Myanmar and Bangladesh for Phase III clinical trials of Indian vaccines.