India begins commercial export of Covid-19 vaccine with Brazil, Morocco

New Delhi, Jan 22 (efe-epa).- India on Friday sent the first shipments of Covishield to Brazil and Morocco after authorizing the commercial export of the locally-manufactured coronavirus vaccine.

The Indian external affairs ministry confirmed to EFE that the government had approved the commercial shipments of the vaccine, developed by UK-based drugmaker AstraZeneca and Oxford University and produced by the Serum Institute of India (SII), the world’s biggest vaccine maker.

Anurag Srivastava, the ministry spokesperson, said contractual supplies of Indian vaccines were being taken to Saudi Arabia, South Africa, Brazil, Morocco, Bangladesh and Myanmar.

“I understand supplies to Brazil and Morocco have already been dispatched,” Srivastava told reporters in New Delhi.

The first shipment to Brazil was sent after President Jair Bolsonaro’s request to accelerate the export permits of at least two million doses on an urgent basis.

Brazil is the second-worst affected country in terms of Covid-19 fatalities with the coronavirus claiming more than 214,000 lives in the South American country.

The United States has the largest number of more than 410,000 deaths. India is at the third spot, with more than 153,000 people succumbing to the virus.

A shipment of the vaccine was also sent to Morocco to be followed by a consignment to South Africa, the ministry said. It did not specify the number of vials sent.

Sources at the vaccine maker confirmed to EFE that shipments containing the vials were exported but avoided giving more details since the process is being carried out entirely by the government.

Another Indian vaccine maker, Bharat Biotech, has also signed a pact with Precisa Medicamentos, a Brazilian firm, to supply its Covid-19 vaccine candidate, Covaxin, to the South American country.

Developed in association with the Indian Council of Medical Research-National Institute of Virology, Covaxin was granted a license for its “emergency use” from the Indian regulators. However, Phase III clinical trials that began in November were yet to be analyzed for results.

India, which began its massive vaccination program a week ago, has pledged that it would maintain its commitment as a global vaccine provider while ensuring production for domestic use.

The country of 1.35 billion people has so far vaccinated more than a million healthcare workers using doses of Covishield and Covaxin.

The production of coronavirus vaccine in India, the “world’s pharmacy”, for its manufacturing capacity and low cost, is key to immunization campaigns in developing countries in Africa and Latin America.

“Indian vaccines are critical for developing countries as they are safe, affordable,” Ecuadorian ambassador in New Delhi Héctor Cuevas Jácome told EFE.

The price of Covishield and Covaxin, among the cheapest in the world, is between $3 and $5 per unit, excluding the logistical and shipment charges.

The Indian vaccines could be cost-effective in comparison to other vaccine candidates whose one dose can cost about $20.

“We must take into account that immunization is going to take some time, so a long-term vaccine plan has to be established that does not affect the economy of the countries any more,” the envoy said.

Earlier, India sent free supplies to neighboring countries, including Bhutan, Maldives, Bangladesh, Nepal, Myanmar, Mauritius, and Seychelles under grant assistance as part of New Delhi’s “neighborhood first” foreign policy. EFE-EPA


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