Despite whining, ranting, and spewing venom against India constantly at every possible international stage, Pakistan will now have to depend on the India-made Covishield vaccine, as it will be a beneficiary of the Covax initiative, an international alliance constructed to avail low-cost vaccines to poorer nations.
According to the reports, around seven million made-in-India doses of AstraZeneca’s Covishield vaccine will be sent to Pakistan’s free Covid-19 vaccination drive scheduled to start next week. However, the vaccines will be covered under the global Covax alliance and not under PM Modi’s vaccine diplomacy.
A special Pakistani plane had earlier departed for China to fetch the first batch of Sinopharm’s Covid-19 vaccine, PM Imran Khan’s special assistant on health Dr Faisal Sultan had said on Sunday. However, apprehensions have been raised against the efficacy of the Chinese vaccine, and many countries have now backtracked on their decision to conduct trials of Chinese vaccines.
In addition to the Chinese vaccines, around seven million out of the 17 million doses of Indian-made Covishield will reach in the country by March, Dr Sultan added.
“Though AstraZeneca is being prepared in India, it will come through Covax, an international alliance which has announced free vaccines for 20% of Pakistan’s population. DRAP (Drug Regulatory Authority of Pakistan) has already registered both Sinopharm and AstraZeneca,” Dr Sultan said.
Earlier in January, it was reported that Pune-based Serum Institute of India, the world’s largest vaccine manufacturing company, would be supplying over 200 million doses of Covishield and Novavax to the GAVI-Covax alliance by the UN at the price of 3 US dollars per dose.
India’s vaccine diplomacy
India, the world’s largest vaccine manufacturer, has again come to the world’s aid by successfully supplying vaccines to its neighbouring and other developing countries at an extremely affordable cost. India has airlifted more than 6 million COVID-19 doses to nine countries in Phase-I under its initiative termed “Vaccine Maitri”.
The Modi government’s vaccine diplomacy has taken wings and has delivered vaccines to most of its neighbours. Under the initiative, India sent a gift of two million doses of Covishield vaccine to Dhaka on January 21 and facilitated a commercial contract of 30 million doses with vaccine manufacturer SII. Nepal, Bhutan, Sri Lanka and the Maldives have received India’s COVID-19 vaccines under grant assistance in tune with country’s “Neighbourhood First” policy.
Addition to that, India will send 1 lakh anti-Covid shots to Oman, a close partner in the Gulf. Later this week, India is scheduled to deliver over 5 lakh doses to Afghanistan and send 2 lakh doses to Nicaragua, 1 lakh to Barbados, 70,000 to Dominica and 1.5 lakh to Mongolia.
Under commercial deals, Egypt, Algeria, UAE, and Kuwait have all purchased vaccines directly from the SII. The purchases are made commercially but need export clearance from the Indian government.
Meanwhile, India has begun the world’s largest coronavirus vaccination drive under which two vaccines, Covishield and Covaxin, are being inoculated to frontline health workers across the country. The country plans to vaccinate about 300 million citizens in the first six months.