595.91 lakh vaccine doses supplied to other nations till March 17: Govt to Rajya Sabha

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New Delhi, Mar 23 (PTI) Over 7.47 crore COVID-19 vaccine doses have been supplied to states and Union Territories so far, while 595.91 lakh have been sent to other countries till March 17, the Rajya Sabha was informed on Tuesday.

External supplies of Made in India COVID-19 vaccines started from January 20. Supplies have been undertaken in form of grants-in-aid, commercial sales by manufacturers and through vaccine alliance GAVI's COVAX facility, Minister of State for Health Ashwini Choubey said in a written reply.

The GAVI's COVAX facility has more than 190 member nations, including India.

A sub-group of the National Expert Group on Vaccine Administration for COVID-19 was constituted to consider all matters related to export of COVID-19 vaccines and take necessary decisions keeping mind domestic production and ensuring adequate availability for the national vaccine programme.

This sub-group closely monitors the supplies, Choubey said in response to a question on the extent to which it would be viable to export vaccines to other countries, where India itself needs a huge number of doses for inoculating its own people.

On the policy of preference in case the government decides to export vaccines to other countries, the Union minister said once an epidemic takes the form of a pandemic, its management has to be done keeping the entire globe as a unit and in most circumstances it is not possible to take either states-specific or country-specific approach.

'Hence, export of COVID-19 vaccine which facilitates global action to vaccination is important to simultaneously protect the high-risk population in all the countries of the world, thereby breaking the chain of transmission and minimizing chances of import of COVID-19 cases from foreign countries as well as neighbouring countries to India,' Choubey said.

Low and middle-income countries as well as nations with limited access to pharmaceutical technologies are at debilitating disadvantages in dealing with the pandemic.

'To this end, the Government of India has allowed only limited export of vaccines while according highest priority to domestic needs,' the minister said. PTI PLB NSD