India has so far provided COVID-19 vaccines to 83 countries and the total number of vaccines exported has reached 6.45 crore, a senior government official said on Thursday.
He said of the total vaccines supplied abroad, only 1.05 crore have been sent as grants while 3.58 crore have been sent as commercial supplies. An additional 1.82 crore have been given to the COVAX facility.
He also mentioned that it is important to remember that these supplies are a part of contractual arrangements, adding that the manufacturing rights are also contingent on various contractual agreements.
"Of the 1.05 crore vaccines given as grants, around 75 per cent vaccines have been given to our neighbouring countries," he said.
Meanwhile, Bharatiya Janata Party's (BJP) in-charge of the Foreign Affairs Department and scientist Vijay Chauthaiwale added that one should also look at the grants in terms of holistic pandemic management rather than plain inward-looking rhetoric.
"When we share land borders with countries, our pandemic outcomes are often connected. When vaccines are available in our neighbourhood, it helps in better integrated management of the pandemic, it helps the entire region, including India. Also, several small and developing countries, which have no capacity to develop or manufacture vaccines were benefited from the Vaccine Maitri programme. It is sad that parties who have been in government for decades don't appreciate the strategic importance of the Vaccine Maitri programme," he said.
Vaccine Maitri is a humtarian initiative undertaken by India to provide made-in-India COVID-19 vaccines to countries around the world. The government had started providing the vaccines to other countries in January this year.
External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar had told Rajya Sabha last month that Prime Minister Narendra Modi's 'Vaccine Maitri' initiative, under which India has supplied COVID-19 vaccines to over 70 nations, has raised the country's standing and generated great international goodwill.
Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray had written to the Centre earlier this month to allow vaccination to all those above 25 years.
Congress leader Rahul Gandhi had also said that it is "ridiculous to debate needs and wants" and that "every Indian deserves the chance to a safe life".
Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan had said on Wednesday that vaccination has to be prioritised so long as the supply of vaccines remains limited.
He had said vaccination strategy has been drawn up after extensive consultations in partnership with all state governments.
( With inputs from ANI )
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