NEW DELHI : India started delivering coironavirus vaccines to its neighbours on Wednesday, the foreign ministry said, flagging off a drive to garner goodwill in an often fractious region with the first shipment to the tiny Himalayan Kingdom of Bhutan.

Bangladesh and Nepal said they expected deliveries on Thursday. The only neighbor absent from India's list apart from China ,is Pakistan, according to an Indian government official.

Many low and middle-income countries are relying on India, the world's biggest vaccine maker, for supplies to start Covid-19 immunisation programmes and bring an end to their outbreaks.

''The Pharmacy of the World will deliver to overcome the Covid-19 challenge,'' Foreign Minister S Jaishankar said on Twitter, adding the first vaccine lots had reached Bhutan and the Maldives.

His ministry said on Tuesday ''supplies under grant assistance'' would be shipped to Bangladesh, Nepal, Myanmar and the Seychelles also.

Shipments to Sri Lanka, Afghanistan and Mauritius were awaiting regulatory clearances.

India authorised two vaccines this month for emergency use at home, one licensed from Oxford University and AstraZeneca and another developed at home by Bharat Biotech in partnership with state-run Indian Council of Medical Research. Both are manufactured locally.

At least two other vaccines are expected to be authorized by India in the next few months. [Reuters]


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