Dhaka, Jan 21 (efe-epa).- Bangladesh and Nepal on Thursday received millions of doses of coronavirus vaccines from India under grant assistance as part of New Delhi’s “neighborhood first” foreign policy.
India’s High commissioner in Bangladesh Vikram Doraiswami handed over two million doses of the India-made vaccine, licensed from Oxford University and AstraZeneca, to Foreign Minister AK Abdul Momen in Dhaka.
“Today is a historic day because our neighbor India has gifted us two million doses of vaccines… I would like to thank India for its gesture,” Momen told reporters.
High commissioner Doraiswami said the vaccine shipment was part of India’s commitment to the “neighborhood first”.
“Together we will be able to fight the disease most effectively when we cooperate,” he said.
Bangladesh Health Minister Zahid Maleque said his government was expecting to get another five million doses of vaccines by the end of January from India under a purchase deal.
India, the world’s biggest vaccine producer, earlier this month approved two vaccines for emergency use. One is the Oxford-AstraZeneca manufactured by the Serum Institute of India, the biggest vaccine maker in the world.
Bharat Biotech is producing the second in partnership with the state-run Indian Council of Medical Research.
Bangladesh is the fourth country to receive Covid-19 vaccines from India under a grant assistance program of the county called “Vaccine Maitri” or vaccine friendship.
India’s External Affairs Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar said it was part of India’s “Putting neighbors first, putting people first” policy.
He said the government also sent the first consignment of vaccines to Nepal on Thursday.
Nepal Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli his Indian counterpart Narendra Modi “for the generous grant” to the country “at this critical time when India is rolling out vaccination for its own people.”
The Indian government on Wednesday shipped 150,000 shots of the AstraZeneca-Oxford University vaccine to the Himalayan kingdom of Bhutan and 100,000 shots to the island nation of the Maldives.
India will also supply vaccine doses to Myanmar and Seychelles while awaited regulatory clearances from Sri Lanka, Afghanistan, and Mauritius.
Bangladesh authorities in November signed a tripartite agreement with Serum Institute of India and its local vendor Beximco Pharmaceuticals to purchase 30 million doses of Oxford-AstraZeneca developed Covid-19 vaccine.
The Bangladesh health minister said they would start the experimental vaccination of healthcare providers within “five to six days” before rolling out the vaccine for mass immunization in early February.
The minister said the authorities were preparing 42,000 volunteers to help the vaccination program.
Bangladesh has over 5,29,000 confirmed cases of coronavirus, the second-highest in the South Asia region.
The death toll from the virus rose to 7,942 with eight fresh cases reported on Wednesday, according to a health department statement. EFE-EPA