India’s precious vaccine friendship

23 January, 2021 12:00 AM printer

In the race to combat coronavirus pandemic, rich countries across the world are stockpiling Covid-19 vaccine and aggressively vaccinating their own people, caring little about the needs of other countries. Some other countries are also using their vaccine production capacity to enhance their global influence and trade. But India seems to the first country to share this precious commodity with neighbouring countries for free even before meeting its own need. This extraordinary gesture of friendship in the time of a global pandemic will remain in history as a glowing example of goodwill and selflessness.

With the slogan Vaccine Maitri or vaccine friendship, the Indian government has sent free doses of more than 3.2 million to Bangladesh, Nepal, Bhutan and Maldives. Donations to Mauritius, Myanmar and Seychelles are set to follow. Sri Lanka and Afghanistan are next on the list.

This free delivery of Covid-19 vaccine, which is also being termed as vaccine diplomacy, reflects India’s unique strengths. It is home to a robust vaccine industry, including Serum Institute of India, one of the world’s largest vaccine makers. Reportedly, early in the pandemic, Serum Institute formed a partnership to produce the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine. By this year, it had already stockpiled 80 million doses. Some of that production will be delivered this month to the Covax initiative backed by the World Health Organization to distribute vaccines to poorer countries.

Bangladesh received two million doses of Covishield vaccine on Thursday from India as gift, which marks the arrival of Covid-19 vaccine for the first time in Bangladesh. Bangladesh Foreign Minister Dr AK Abdul Momen along with Health Minister Zahid Maleque received the vaccine from Indian High Commissioner to Bangladesh Vikram Doraiswami. 

Thanking the government and the people of India for gifting the vaccine, the foreign minister recalled India’s contribution to Liberation War of Bangladesh in 1971. In a similar vein, now when a deadly pandemic has rattled the whole world, India again stood by Bangladesh with a gift of vaccine. We remember the old adage that a friend in need is a friend indeed.