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India, the “pharmacy of the world”, begins exporting the Covid vaccine

A health worker receives a Covid-19 vaccine at a government hospital in Hyderabad on Monday. (AP photo)

India began exporting coronavirus footage on Wednesday with a shipment to the neighboring Himalayan kingdom, Bhutan, the Indian foreign ministry said, as the world’s so-called pharmacy looks to boost vaccine diplomacy.

Many low- and middle-income countries depend on India, the world’s largest vaccine maker, for the supplies needed to start immunization programs against Covid-19 and put an end to its outbreak.

“The first shipment takes off for Bhutan!” Foreign Ministry spokesman Anurag Srivastava said on Twitter. “India begins supplying Covid vaccines to major neighboring and partner countries.”

The ministry said on Tuesday that “supplies under the grant aid” will be shipped to the Maldives, Bangladesh, Nepal, Myanmar and Seychelles, while Sri Lanka, Afghanistan and Mauritius are awaiting regulatory approvals to receive vaccines.

India authorized two vaccines this month for emergency use at home, one licensed by the University of Oxford and AstraZeneca and the other developed in-house by Bharat Biotech in partnership with the state-run Indian Council of Medical Research. Both are locally made.

India is expected to certify at least two more vaccines in the next few months.

India will only initially ship the AstraZeneca vaccine, which is manufactured by India’s Serum Institute, the world’s largest vaccine maker, which classifies the vaccine as Covishield.

Bangladesh said it expected to receive 2 million doses of Coffeeshield on Thursday. The country of more than 160 million people has not yet started its vaccination program and has requested 30 million more doses of the vaccine.

India, which has recorded the largest number of coronavirus infections after the United States, has so far vaccinated more than 631,417 frontline workers.

On Wednesday, the world’s second most populous country reported 13,823 new cases, taking the total to 10.9 million. Data from the Ministry of Health showed that the number of deaths due to the disease increased from 162 to 152,718.

“The world’s pharmacy will work to overcome the challenge of Covid,” Foreign Minister S. Geishankar said on Twitter, referring to the exports.

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