Covid-19 vaccine diplomacy! Why is Pakistan eyeing Made-In-India Coronavirus vaccines Covaxin, Covishield?

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New Delhi | Updated: January 19, 2021 10:57 AM

Covid-19 vaccines in India: Pakistan has so far approved two Covid 19 vaccines for emergency use approval (EUA). The Drug Regulatory Authority Pakistan (DRAP) gave its nod to the Sinopharm COVID-19 vaccine, developed by China National Pharmaceutical Group (SinoPharm), and Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine.

India Pakistan Covid VaccineHowever, for the remaining 80 per cent of the population, Pakistan eyes Serum Institute of India-manufactured Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine as well as Bharat Biotech-ICMR’s Covaxin through bilateral routes. (IE image)

Pakistan is considering diplomatic options to procure Made-In-India Covid-19 vaccines –Covishield and Covaxin – even as New Delhi is planning to send 20 lakh doses of Coronavirus vaccines to Bangladesh. Islamabad is pondering to get access to the Made-In-India vaccines through two ways – either to get the doses via global alliance for vaccines or via bilateral route, according to a report by the Indian Express.

Why is Pakistan seeking Made-In-India Covid 19 vaccines?

Pakistan has so far approved two Covid 19 vaccines for emergency use approval (EUA). The Drug Regulatory Authority Pakistan (DRAP) gave its nod to the Sinopharm COVID-19 vaccine, developed by China National Pharmaceutical Group (SinoPharm), and Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine. Even though Pakistan’s health ministry has said the country was in process of speaking to different vaccine makers, Islamabad has yet to place an order to procure any vaccine. Pakistan has planned to cover vaccines for the majority of the population for free, said the country’s Health Minister Faisal Sultan, adding that private companies could also be allowed to import and sell vaccines once supply was available to an authorized company, as per a Reuter report. It must be noted Oxford-AstraZeneca’s vaccine has shown better efficacy than the Chinese vaccine.

Now, the Imran Khan administration believes that it will be able to get access to the vaccine through Covax. The Covax is an alliance set up by the World Health Organisation, Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunisation (GAVI), and Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI). Last year, the alliance pledged to provide free vaccines for 20 per cent of the population of around 190 countries that include Pakistan. Islamabad is expecting that it will get the first consignment from Covax soon after the start of the second quarter of 2021.

However, for the remaining 80 per cent of the population, Pakistan eyes Serum Institute of India-manufactured Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine as well as Bharat Biotech-ICMR’s Covaxin through bilateral routes. Islamabad can also procure the Made-In-India Covid vaccines through a third country. However, the third country route is likely to push up costs of the vaccine doses, the IE report says.

Islamabad is yet to formally approach New Delhi over vaccines but one of the vaccine manufacturers in India has reached out to the Imran Khan government on the supply of vaccines. Even though there are tensions between India and Pakistan, the supply of “life-saving medicines” has been kept out of the purview of restrictions slapped on bilateral trade.

Made-In-India Covid vaccines to Bangladesh

Bangladesh authorities have stated that a special flight will carry 20 lakh doses of Covishield to Dhaka from India. Indian High Commission in Dhaka will hand over the consignment to the Bangladesh government.

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