India will have excess Covid-19 vaccine doses to fully resume Vaccine Maitri, its initiative to export vaccines to other countries which was suspended in April. Over the last one week, India has given 10 lakh vaccine doses each to four countries – Nepal, Bangladesh, Myanmar and Iran, people aware of the matter told ET. As per production figures analysed by the health ministry, it will receive 28 crore vaccine doses in October – two crore more than September’s availability. This will include about 22 crore of Serum Institute of India’s Covishield and six crore doses of Bharat Biotech’s Covaxin. This will be enough to cover domestic requirement and spare about 1-2 crore doses for supply to other countries, sources said. In November, the government expects availability of more than 30 crore vaccines, which will help expand Vaccine Maitri. “This month we have a target of crossing 100 crore doses, so our domestic demand takes precedence,” a senior health ministry official told ET. “When the minister had announced resumption of Vaccine Maitri, it was clearly conveyed that in this quarter from October-December vaccine doses will be made available to other countries. We expect to get over 30 crore next month and will expand Maitri initiative.”India had announced resumption of Vaccine Maitri on September 20 – ahead of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to United States. According to sources, external affairs minister S Jaishankar has sent a list of at least 25 countries that have requested for vaccines to health minister Mansukh Mandaviya. “India will prioritise neighbouring countries,” a second government official told ET. “The reason is that we have porous borders with several countries and we are safe if the neighbourhood is safe.” Sri Lanka and Bhutan will be provided vaccine doses. There has been a change in regime in Afghanistan but India is unlikely to change its stance on “keeping neighbourhood safe”, the official said. “Afghanistan was one of the few countries we supplied vaccines to in February and then through Covax facility. If they request us now and we have doses available, we will consider it,” the person said. Vaccine Maitri was India’s foreign policy initiative through which it supplied 6.64 crore doses to 95 countries across the world from January to April. According to data from the external affairs ministry, 1.07 crore doses were given free of cost, 3.58 crore were sold commercially, and remaining 1.98 crore was given to the World Health Organisation (WHO)-led Covax initiative to ensure equitable access to Covid-19 vaccines across the world. Vaccine Maitri was rolled out on January 20, sending 1.5 lakh vaccine doses to Bhutan and one lakh doses to Maldives within four days of initiation of India’s public immunisation drive. However, with India facing shortage of Covid-19 vaccine amid the second wave of the pandemic, exports were stopped.

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