India will start exporting home-made anti-coronavirus vaccines within two weeks of its launch, an Indian foreign ministry official told the BBC.
The official denied reports that India will ban the export of the vaccines it produces to meet domestic demand.
India produces about 60 percent of the vaccines globally, because it has huge factories for this purpose, and so many countries are waiting impatiently to start shipping doses.
The Asian country has officially approved the emergency use of the two vaccines, while it is preparing to start vaccination with vaccines this January.
India is planning one of the largest vaccinations in the world, and is seeking to vaccinate about 300 million people by next July.
The country’s Medicines Regulatory Authority gave the green light for two vaccines, one developed by AstraZeneca with the University of Oxford, and the other by the local Bharat Biotech company.
The Foreign Ministry official confirmed that India’s plan to assist other countries is on the right track.
“Within two weeks of launching the vaccines, we will allow exports to some of our neighbors in South Asia. Some of these exports will be paid for and sent as gifts, and others will be provided at the same price that the government will buy the vaccines,” said the Indian official, who preferred not to be named.
He added, “India is fully aware of its commitments to its neighbors and the rest of the world, as the largest producer of vaccines in the world.”
Indian Health Minister Rajesh Bhushan said that his country plans to launch Covid 19 vaccines by the middle of this month.
“Within 10 days of the date of the emergency use permit (January 3), the vaccine will be launched,” he told reporters in Delhi.
Adar Poonawala, chief executive of the Indian Serology Institute, which manufactures the Oxford / AstraZeneca vaccine in India, sought to clarify the confusion over exports.
He was quoted by the media as saying that India would not allow the export of that vaccine “for several months”. He told the Associated Press that his company was banned from exporting the vaccine and selling the vaccine on the private market.
But today, Tuesday, he told the BBC’s India correspondent, Yogita LeMay, that his company has been allowed to export the vaccine for government immunization programs abroad, and that he expects to implement agreements with Bangladesh, Saudi Arabia and Morocco within the next few weeks.
On Monday, he said that his company cannot give vaccines to anyone but the government, and that the first 100 million doses will be sold at a special price of 200 rupees ($ 2.74), “after which the price will rise.”
This has raised concerns in India’s neighboring countries, including Nepal and Bangladesh, which mainly rely on the Indian Serology Institute to start vaccinating their populations.
Reuters reported that Bangladesh has already requested 30 million doses of the vaccine in the first phase. The Minister of Health in Bangladesh told local media last December that he expected the first batch of the vaccine to arrive by next February.
The Indian Serology Institute and the Bharat Biotech Company have a total stock of more than 70 million doses of Covid vaccines, and they will increase production dramatically to meet the growing demand.
The two sides (the institute and the company) issued a joint statement, Tuesday, saying that they would make “their production of Covid 19 vaccines available to the world.”