India ready to roll out Covid-19 vaccines to Gulf nations, minister says

The country's minister of state for external affairs said India is committed to supporting the global fight against the pandemic

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India is ready to roll out Covid-19 vaccines to nations in the Gulf to support global efforts to overcome the virus, a senior minister said.

Over the past three days, the country has sent more than 4 million doses of Covishield – the local name for the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine manufactured in India – to countries including Bangladesh, Myanmar and Nepal.

The country's external affairs ministry has said it will soon begin the shipment of Covid-19 vaccines to Saudi Arabia.

Other countries in the region that have requested vaccine supplies from India are Oman and Bahrain.

V. Muraleedharan, India’s Minister of State for External Affairs addresses workers at Delhi Private School in Dubai, where a program has been launched to help blue collar workers learn soft skills and language.
(Photo: Reem Mohammed/The National)

V. Muraleedharan, India's Minister of State for External Affairs, pledged India would play a key role in supporting a global vaccination drive. Reem Mohammed / The National

"We will of course be happy to share our vaccines with the countries in the Gulf, subject to various technical and regulatory approvals in India and abroad," V Muraleedharan, Indian Minister of State for External Affairs, told The National.

The minister visited the UAE last week, where he met government officials and community members.

"As Prime Minister [Narendra] Modi has said, India will share its vaccines with other countries in the true spirit of Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam (the world is one family). We have already started sending vaccines to neighbouring countries," he said.

India began the world's largest inoculation drive earlier this month, with the target of vaccinating 300 million people by July.

The vaccines are being produced by the Serum Institute of India, the largest vaccine maker in the world.

"In India, two vaccines have been approved and production has started,"  Mr Muraleedharan said. "These are Covishield and Covaxin.

"Several other vaccines are also in the pipeline.

"There are also several innovations taking place in Covid-19 diagnostics in India which should help in returning back to normal life.”

Covaxin, is a homegrown vaccine,  developed by Indian drug maker Bharat Biotech. It has received emergency-use approval from the country's drug controller general.

Flying out supplies of  Covid-19 vaccine is part of the country's pledge to get supplies to partners and neighbouring nations.

This is in line with declarations by Indian Prime Minister Modi that "the vaccines being made in India will contribute to global efforts to contain the pandemic".

Mr Muraleedharan described his three-day UAE visit as productive, in which both sides agreed to strengthen ties in energy, food security, health and investments.

India sees enormous potential in the area of food security and both sides are working to take plans forward, he said.

“This will be a win-win situation for both countries.

"India needs investments in logistics and food processing, as a lot of our food production goes waste. The UAE fulfils its food requirement mostly through imports, and India can meet most of this requirement.”

Providing assistance to Indian workers in the UAE and supporting them in learning new skills to improve job career opportunities was also a focus of Mr Muraleedharan's visit.