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India has offered domestically made covid-19 vaccines to diplomats and their families posted in the country, a little more than a week after the government began the vaccination drive and opened up limited exports, two people familiar with the development said on Monday.

The decks have also been cleared for India-made vaccines to be made available for use by United Nations peacekeepers and health workers through Covax, the global initiative to ensure rapid and equitable access to covid-19 vaccines for all countries.

The latter development comes in the wake of India assuming the non-permanent membership of the UN Security Council for a two-year term on 1 January. The moves strengthen India’s image as a major supplier of medicines to the world, against the backdrop of the covid-19 pandemic.

New Delhi made the offer of vaccination to foreign diplomats posted in India and their mission staff on Friday, describing it as a gesture of “goodwill" and “solidarity", according to one of the people mentioned above. Indians working in the missions or embassies will not be covered by the offer.

“The government of India, as a gesture of goodwill and solidarity, is considering to offer covid-19 vaccination to eligible foreign diplomats and their family members accredited to all diplomatic missions, including consulates, the UN and its specialized agencies and other international organizations, based in lndia," the letter sent from the Indian foreign ministry said. “The vaccination would be on a voluntary basis and in accordance with the phased plan of the domestic rollout."

There was, however, no specific date for vaccination. Neither was it clear which vaccine would be administered. Indian drug regulators have given the go ahead to two vaccines. One is the Serum Institute of India’s Covishield, developed by Oxford University and AstraZeneca, while the second is the domestically developed Covaxin manufactured by Bharat Biotech. A clutch of other vaccines are in various stages of testing and development in India.

Most diplomats contacted by Mint welcomed the offer, while some said they were considering the proposal and others said they would seek advice from their capitals.

“The vaccines on offer in India are not cleared by our regulatory authorities," one European diplomat said.

So far, India has sent vaccines as gifts to almost all its neighbouring countries with the exception of Pakistan under its Vaccine Maitri initiative. New Delhi has also sent vaccines as a gift to Mauritius and Seychelles among countries in its extended neighbourhood. It has also started exports to Morocco, Brazil, South Africa and Saudi Arabia.

India is also looking at sending vaccines under the Covax arrangement for UN personnel, including peacekeepers and health workers.

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