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As countries race to vaccinate their people against covid-19 amid reports of global vaccine makers struggling to meet demand, India is working on plans to scale up vaccine manufacture to supply to as many as 60 nations in the coming months.

A list drawn up by the government and seen by Mint has two dozen nations to which New Delhi is either supplying vaccines or plans to commence supplies in the coming days. These include Egypt, Algeria, Kuwait, Nicaragua, the Dominican Republic and Barbados, besides the Marshall Islands and Samoa that are located out of India’s traditional spheres of influence. Requests, both formal and informal, for vaccines have been received from 60 countries so far.

An initial 5.5 million doses were supplied to countries in New Delhi’s neighbourhood and extended neighbourhood such as Seychelles and Mauritius as either “grants in aid" or “gifts". An additional 27 million shots are set to be shipped on a commercial basis, Mint has learnt. Some are being supplied to nations like Nepal at concessional terms.

Decisions on exports are made by a two-tier system, a ministerial level followed by an empowered group of officials comprising those from health, pharmaceuticals, finance and foreign ministries.

They monitor domestic requirements and requests from abroad. After a careful study of domestic supplies such as manufacturing capacities and internal needs, decisions on exports are taken.

The empowered group of secretaries periodically update cabinet secretary Rajiv Gauba and principal secretary to the PM Pramod Kumar Mishra on the situation. Regulator interactions are held with the two Indian vaccine makers, Pune-based Serum Institute of India and Hyderabad-based Bharat Biotech, with New Delhi assisting them procure regulatory clearances in countries.

India’s strategy for exports and for inoculating its people comes against the backdrop of news reports of global vaccine companies falling short on promised deliveries. The US, UK and Israel are seen as countries that have had a head start on vaccinations with news reports saying that the EU has fallen far behind the US, UK in the race to vaccinate people.

In his first Mann ki Baat address of 2021 on Sunday, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said India was running the world’s biggest vaccination programme and New Delhi had in 15 days inoculated 3 million healthcare workers and others on the frontlines of covid-19 management. The Made in India vaccine that New Delhi was supplying to the world was an example of “self-reliant" India, Modi said. It was a reflection of the “uniqueness" of India’s culture that New Delhi was simultaneously supplying vaccines to the world as it was meeting its own requirements, he said.

“At a time of crisis, India had been able to help the world because India has achieved capabilities in the areas of medicine and vaccine development. This is the thought that underlies the ‘self-reliant India’ campaign," Modi said. “The more India becomes self-reliant, the more the world will be able to profit from it."

Modi’s remarks on vaccination came a day after he told the ruling National Democratic Alliance that a new world order is “about to take shape" after the pandemic and “India has a big role to play in it".

India’s role as the “pharmacy to the world", which will be reinforced by its supply of vaccines, will win it goodwill that will stand New Delhi in good stead as it looks to carve out a bigger role for itself in world affairs, analysts said.

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