As the demand for COVID-19 vaccines rises globally, India on Thursday said it would not be right to talk about the supply of jabs to other countries at the moment as it is currently ramping up domestic production for its own inoculation programme.
Elaborating the steps taken by the government to augment vaccine supply for domestic use, Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) Spokesperson Arindam Bagchi said India remains engaged with US vaccine manufacturers like Pfizer, Johnson & Johnson, and Moderna as part of this effort.
"I just responded to a series of questions on what steps the government has taken to ensure adequate supply of vaccines from abroad. I think you will appreciate that against this background, it would not be right to talk about supply of vaccines abroad just now as we have repeatedly conveyed," he said.
"We are currently purposing domestic vaccine production for our own vaccination programme," Bagchi.
After it started its own inoculation programme in January, India also supplied vaccine to other countries. In response to a question in Lok Sabha on March 23, Minister of State for External Affairs V Muraleedharan said India has supplied 600 million doses to 76 countries under the 'Vaccine-Maitri' initiative.
Of the 600 million doses, around 341 million doses were supplied on commercial basis, while around 177 doses were supplied to GAVI's COVAX. The remaining 81 million were supplied as grant.
However, it came to a halt after the deadly second wave of the coronavirus hit the country, killing thousands. The government also received flak for exporting jabs.
The vaccine export ban by India has led to a shortage in other countries.
The government has been in talks with the US over the shortage of vaccines in the country.
"We are also engaged with the US Administration to ensure that necessary components and raw materials for vaccine production in India are readily available. This issue was taken up most recently during External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar's visit to the USA. It is in our mutual interest to combat the global pandemic by expediting vaccination efforts," he said.
Sharing details about Jaishankar's visit to the US last month, Bagchi said the minister's programme included meetings with the US leadership, interactions with the members of the Congress, CEOs of the US companies and think tanks.
"Discussions were wide ranging and encompassed India-US bilateral relations, cooperation on regional and global issues such as the Indo-Pacific region, the Quad dialogue, Afghanistan, Myanmar and the UNSC to name a few.
"Both sides focused on the ongoing efforts to combat COVID-19, expeditious vaccination, enhancing access to vaccines, ensuring smooth and open supply chains for vaccines and related materials and securing of waiver under TRIPS (Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights) for COVID-19 vaccines," Bagchi added.