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Roving Periscope: India to supply 45mn vaccine doses to Pakistan

Roving Periscope: India to supply 45mn vaccine doses to Pakistan

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Virendra Pandit 

New Delhi: Despite long enmity and bitter memories of innumerable terror attacks it suffered for decades, India will supply 45 million doses of Made-in-India vaccines free-of-cost to Pakistan through the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization (GAVI) to help it fight the coronavirus pandemic.

Islamabad is expected to directly receive from India the first batch of AstraZeneca’s Covid-19 vaccine in March and the remaining doses by June. GAVI had signed an agreement with Pakistan in September 2020 to provide the Covid-19 vaccine.

The Geneva-based international vaccine alliance, a public-private partnership, will provide free India-made jabs to Islamabad, officials said on Wednesday. However, approvals and logistics are yet to be worked out.

The Covishield vaccine is being manufactured by Pune-based Serum Institute of India (SII), the world’s largest vaccine-maker, under license from the vaccine developers, University of Oxford, and pharmaceutical giant AstraZeneca.

These Covid-19 vaccine doses are among those bought by GAVI, which works to increase access to immunization in poor countries, from India. New Delhi has supplied jabs to at least 65 countries so far under three categories: COVAX, in the form of grants (free-of-cost), and through commercial sales.

The Covid-19 Vaccine Global Access (COVAX) is an initiative launched by the World Health Organization (WHO) to ensure vaccine access to the world’s most vulnerable areas. Pakistan will also get Indian vaccines under COVAX.

Pakistan’s drug regulator, Drug Regulatory Authority of Pakistan, had approved the University of Oxford-AstraZeneca’s Covid-19 vaccine for emergency use in January this year. This was the first Covid-19 vaccine to be granted approval in that country.

So far, Pakistan was relying mostly on free doses being provided by the GAVI to inoculate the people as the Chinese-made vaccine CanSino was very expensive at a price tag of $13 (Pakistani rupees 2,045.00) per beneficiary, which Islamabad, already on the brink of bankruptcy, cannot afford.

A total of 27.5 million Pakistanis, including frontline workers and senior citizens, have so far been vaccinated against Covid-19, officials said. The government has decided to prioritize health workers and people over the age of 65 for vaccination.

According to official sources in India, 57.91 million doses have been supplied so far. About 16.3 million doses have been provided under COVAX, 7.7 million under the grant, and 33.8 million under commercial deals. Bangladesh tops the list of countries that have got vaccines with 9 million doses.

While bilateral trade between India and Pakistan had remained adversely impacted with the deterioration in ties since 2019, the supply of “life-saving medicines” is still exempt and can be done through the bilateral route.

Bilateral trade between the two neighbors had almost stopped in the past two years, first after the Pulwama terror attack of February 2019, and then after the abolition of the special status of Jammu and Kashmir in August that year.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi had launched the world’s largest vaccination program in New Delhi on January 14, 2021. In the first phase, frontline workers and coronavirus warriors, including healthcare professionals, were vaccinated.

The second phase kicked off on March 1. On March 8, more than 2.4 million people were vaccinated, the largest in a single day.

 

 

 

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