Arun Kumar Sahu

Expedite PROCESS: Indian High Commissioner to T&T Arun Kumar Sahu.

Trinidad and Tobago has not yet approached India for a gift of Covid-19 vaccines, as far as Indian High Commissioner to T&T Arun Kumar Sahu knows.

Sahu however said the high commission will try to expedite the approval process for vaccines only after T&T directly places an order with the Serum Institute and reaches a commercial agreement.

He was responding to questions from the Express via e-mail yesterday.

Last week Foreign Affairs Minister Dr Amery Browne told the Express that he had communicated with the Indian High Commission in Trinidad and also wrote to India’s External Affairs Minister with respect to acquiring some 250,000 doses of AstraZeneca’s Corona vaccine (COVISHIELD) manufactured by Serum Institute of India, Pune, India.

The High Commissioner noted that Browne wrote to Dr S Jaishankar to help in getting the required export approval by letter dated February 16, 2021.

“Keeping in mind, our own domestic demand and other commitments for Made In India vaccine, we will try our best to expedite this approval process, only after T&T places an order with the Serum Institute directly and reaches a commercial agreement,” stated the High Commissioner.

Asked whether this will be a purchase order or will the Government of India be gifting these vaccines, he responded: “The High Commission is not aware of any proposal from T&T Government requesting for gifting of vaccines by Government of India.”

Questioned on whether the request will be swiftly responded to, Sahu reiterated the order has to be placed.

“Keeping in mind our long-standing friendly relations with the Government and people of Trinidad and Tobago, the High Commission will do its best to facilitate the process. However, this can only be done after T&T Government enters into a commercial arrangement with Serum Institute directly,” he stressed.

Welfare of humanity

India has provided vaccines to Barbados, Dominica, Mexico, among other countries.

The High Commissioner stated that India has both gifted and sold millions of vaccines.

“As you are aware, Prime Minister Modi has said that India’s vaccine capability is for the welfare of the humanity. And living up to that spirit, as on date (February 22, 2021), India has gifted 6.75 million doses and despatched 22.3 million doses on commercial terms, to 28 countries,” he stated.

“As of now, 100,000 vaccines have been gifted to Barbados and 70,000 to the Commonwealth of Dominica. In the Latin America and Caribbean region, Mexico has already purchased 0.87 million doses; Brazil has purchased two million doses, and Argentina purchased 5.8 million doses. India has also donated 200,000 doses for UN Peacekeeping Force,” he added.

The High Commissioner stated the external supply of vaccines is an ongoing process, depending on availability and domestic requirements.

“In the coming weeks, Indian vaccines are expected to reach some of the Caribbean countries whose governments have requested India for donation. The total donation of vaccine to the Caribbean countries is expected to be around 500,000 doses,” he stated.

The High Commissioner stated that over 90 countries are looking for Indian vaccines either through donation or commercial purchase.

“As of today, 28 countries have benefited by Made In India vaccines. In coming weeks, 49 more countries are likely to be added to India’s #vaccinemaitri (Vaccine Friendship) initiative,” he stated.

He added that six vaccine candidates, inclusive of three indigenously developed ones, are meeting the world’s vaccine requirement today.

World’s biggest vaccination drive

The High Commissioner stated that on January 16 India launched the world’s biggest vaccination drive.

He stated the first batch of 30 million recipients is health professionals and front line workers, including police and sanitation workers.

“In the next few weeks, we plan to make the vaccine available to a group of 270 million people over the age of 50, or with pre-existing conditions. On 20th January, we started supplying vaccines to six countries in our neighbourhood—Maldives, Bhutan, Bangladesh, Nepal, Myanmar and Seychelles. In these challenging times, India, the largest democracy of the world, has become the world’s largest pharmacy,” he stated.

Asked whether he will be taking the vaccine, the High Commissioner responded “Yes. All our High Commission staff will take the vaccine as and when available. We believe in science.”

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