India began shipping a coronavirus vaccine to its neighbors on Wednesday, the State Department said, noting goodwill in a region that was often volatile when the first shipments were sent to the kingdom of Bhutan in the Himalayas.
Bangladesh and Nepal have announced that they expect deliveries by Thursday. The only neighbor apart from China not on India’s list is Pakistan, which an Indian government official said has yet to ask for help.
Many low and middle income countries are counting on India, the world’s largest vaccine maker, to start a Covid-19 vaccination program and stop the outbreak.
His ministry said Tuesday that “grants” would also be sent to Bangladesh, Nepal, Myanmar and the Seychelles. Shipments to Sri Lanka, Afghanistan and Mauritius are awaiting regulatory approval.
This month, India, in collaboration with the Indian State Council for Medical Research, approved two home emergency vaccines, one from the University of Oxford and AstraZeneca and one from Bharat Biotech. Both are made on location.
At least two more vaccines are expected to be approved by India in the coming months.
Bangladesh expects a price of two million boxes of Covishield from India on Thursday.
Nepal has pledged one million free cardboard boxes from India.
Pakistan has approved the China Sinopharm Covid-19 vaccine and other emergency vaccines developed by AstraZeneca and the University of Oxford, but has not approved their delivery.
India, which reports the highest number of coronavirus infections in the US, has vaccinated more than 631,417 frontline workers since the campaign began on Saturday.
The world’s second most populous country reported 13,823 new cases as of Wednesday, a total of 10.9 million. The number of deaths from the disease increased from 162 to 152,718, according to the Health Ministry.
Many people refuse to take pictures, especially the Bharat Biotech vaccine whose efficacy data are not known from late-stage studies for fear of side effects.