India, one of the world's leading drug makers, on Tuesday said it will provide COVID-19 vaccines under grant assistance to Bhutan, Maldives, Bangladesh, Nepal, Myanmar and Seychelles from Wednesday, and that shipments will be sent to Sri Lanka, Afghanistan and Mauritius as well on receipt of necessary regulatory clearances.
In a tweet, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said India is deeply honoured to be a 'long-trusted' partner in meeting the healthcare needs of the global community and that supplies of the vaccines to several countries will commence on Wednesday, and more will follow in the days ahead.
India is one of the world's biggest drug makers, and an increasing number of countries have already approached it for procuring the coronavirus vaccines.
The Ministry of External Affairs said India will supply COVID-19 vaccines to partner countries over the coming weeks and months in a phased manner keeping in view the domestic requirements.
In a statement, the MEA said India has received several requests for the supply of Indian-manufactured vaccines from neighbouring and key partner countries.
'In response to these requests, and in keeping with India's stated commitment to use India's vaccine production and delivery capacity to help all of humanity fight the COVID pandemic, supplies under grant assistance to Bhutan, Maldives, Bangladesh, Nepal, Myanmar and Seychelles will begin from January 20,' it said.
'In respect of Sri Lanka, Afghanistan and Mauritius, we are awaiting their confirmation of necessary regulatory clearances,' it added.
India has already rolled out a massive coronavirus vaccination drive under which two vaccines, Covishield and Covaxin, are being administered to frontline health workers across the country.
While Oxford-AstraZeneca's Covishield is being manufactured by the Serum Institute, Covaxin is being produced by Bharat Biotech.
'India fulfils commitment to give vaccines to humanity. Supplies to our neighbours will start on 20th January.The Pharmacy of the World will deliver to overcome the COVID challenge,' External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar said on Twitter.
The MEA said it will be ensured that domestic manufacturers will have adequate stocks to meet domestic requirements while supplying abroad.
'Immunisation programme is being implemented in India, as in other countries, in a phased manner to cover the healthcare providers, frontline workers and the most vulnerable,' it said.
'Keeping in view the domestic requirements of the phased rollout, India will continue to supply COVID-19 vaccines to partner countries over the coming weeks and months in a phased manner,' it added.
It is learnt that Pakistan is unlikely to be benefitted from India's initiative as that country is yet to approach New Delhi.
The MEA said prior to the delivery of vaccines, a training programme, covering administrative and operational aspects, is being conducted on January 19-20 for immunisation managers, cold chain officers, communication officers and data managers of the recipient countries, both at national and provincial levels.
India had earlier supplied hydroxychloroquine, remdesivir and paracetamol tablets, as well as diagnostic kits, ventilators, masks, gloves and other medical supplies to a large number of countries to help them deal with the pandemic.
The MEA said India has also provided training to several neighbouring countries to enhance and strengthen their clinical capabilities, under the Partnerships for Accelerating Clinical Trials (PACT) programme.
'Separately, several training courses have been organized for healthcare workers and administrators of partner countries under the Indian Technical and Economic Cooperation (ITEC) programme, sharing our experience in dealing with the pandemic,' it said.
'In an ongoing effort, India will continue to supply countries all over the world with vaccines. This will be calibrated against domestic requirements and international demand and obligations, including under GAVI's Covax facility to developing countries,' the MEA added.
GAVI is a global vaccine alliance.