Explained: Sluggish vaccination drive in India’s neighbouring countries

India’s surge in Coronavirus cases is having a dangerous effect on neighbouring countries such as Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Nepal.
Explained: Sluggish vaccination drive in India’s neighbouring countries
India has already supplied 64 million doses of vaccines to 80 nations, much of its to neighbouring countries.The Bridge Chronicle

India’s surge in Coronavirus cases is having a dangerous effect on neighbouring countries such as Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Nepal. The situation has become alarming in the region coupled with India’s decision to ban the exports of vaccines as it grapples with the crisis at home.

India launched its COVID-19 vaccination drive on January 16, starting with the vaccination of priority groups. The country also started supplying vaccines as gifts as well as exports to its neighbours – as part of its much-touted Vaccine Maitri (Vaccine Friendship) initiative.

With fewer Coronavirus infections at that time and being home to the world’s largest vaccine industry, the chances of a successful vaccination drive, not just in India but also in the entire region, looked high. But as COVID-19 cases started to rise exponentially in March and April, India’s growing inadequacy to vaccinate people at home prompted a pause on exports.

According to the figures released by the External Affairs Ministry, India has already supplied 64 million doses of vaccines to 80 nations, much of its to neighbouring countries including Bhutan, Nepal, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Myanmar.

As India has suspended further shipments, the massive vaccination drive in its neighbouring countries has also witnessed a sluggish progress. Let's take a look:

Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka is battling a sudden surge in COVID-19 cases for the last month. On April 24, the Island nation registered over 1,000 new cases for the first time since the beginning of the pandemic. Since the last few weeks, the country has been reporting more than 2000 new COVID-19 cases.

On May 10, Sri Lanka recorded 2,672 fresh cases, taking the total number of cases to 125806. The number of active cases has reached an all-time high at 22,000.

The Island nation has administered over 1.1 million total doses of vaccines till May 10. The percentage of vaccinations per 100 people also stands at just 5.3 per cent, according to the Financial Times COVID-19 vaccine tracker.

Sri Lanka received approximately 1,264,000 Covishield doses from India in three separate consignments. However, the country has run into snags as the supply of Indian vaccine is uncertain now. Sri Lanka is sourcing the Russian made Sputnik vaccine and Sinopharm from China. The Island nation also approved Pfizer's COVID-19 vaccine for emergency use on May 9.

Pakistan

Pakistan is facing a third wave of Coronavirus infections. Ahead of Eid al-Fitr, Pakistan has announced a 10-day countrywide lockdown from May 8 to control the surge in the number of cases.

On May 11, Pakistan detected 2,869 new COVID-19 cases, taking the total number of Coronavirus cases to 8,67,438. Pakistan's Covid death toll reached 19,106 with 104 succumbing to the viral infection in the last 24 hours. The positivity rate stands at 7.4 per cent.

A health worker inoculates a woman with the Sinopharm Covid-19 coronavirus vaccine at a vaccination camp in Lahore on May 5, 2021.
A health worker inoculates a woman with the Sinopharm Covid-19 coronavirus vaccine at a vaccination camp in Lahore on May 5, 2021.AFP

On the vaccine front, the government is currently vaccinating citizens aged 40 and above free of cost. As of May 11, Pakistan had vaccinated 3.88 million people or just 0.8 per cent of its population of 216 million. The percentage of vaccinations per 100 people also stands at just 1.53 per cent.

Pakistan has so far received nearly 11 million doses of different vaccines. The vaccines being administered include Sinopharm, CanSino, Sinovac, Sputnik V and AstraZeneca. Global sharing programme COVAX has also pledged to supply enough doses to vaccinate 20 per cent of Pakistan’s population.

Nepal

Just like India, Nepal is also facing a devastating second wave with a daily positivity rate is nearly 50 per cent. The daily covid cases hovered at around 150 at the beginning of April but in a month the figure has passed 9,000.

On May 11, Nepal reported the highest single-day spike of 9,317 new coronavirus infections, taking the nationwide coronavirus infection tally to 4,13,111.

As the country sees a surge in infections, hospitals are getting filled with sick with health infrastructure under immense pressure.

A patient receives oxygen as body of a COVID-19 patient lies covered on a stretcher outside an emergency ward of a government run hospital in Kathmandu, Nepal, on Wednesday, May 12,
A patient receives oxygen as body of a COVID-19 patient lies covered on a stretcher outside an emergency ward of a government run hospital in Kathmandu, Nepal, on Wednesday, May 12,AFP

On the vaccination front, Nepal started the vaccination drive after India donated about a million doses of vaccine. Nepal also secured vaccines from the COVAX and China. However, Nepal has now suspended its vaccination programme after it ran out of doses. The Himalayan nation, which was largely dependent on India to supply the COVID-19 vaccines, is now looking to China and Russia to meet its demands.

Nepal has vaccinated 2.5 million people till May 7. The percentage of vaccinations per 100 people also stands at just 8.6 per cent.

Bangladesh

Bangladesh has reported 7.77 lakh COVID-19 cases and over 12,045 deaths till date. The country has also closed all its international flights and land borders with India since April 26.

Health experts in Bangladesh has said that coronavirus variant originally identified in India was detected in Bangladesh too.

A Bangladeshi woman mourns the death of her husband who died of COVID-19 at a hospital in Dhaka, Bangladesh, Friday, May 7, 2021.
A Bangladeshi woman mourns the death of her husband who died of COVID-19 at a hospital in Dhaka, Bangladesh, Friday, May 7, 2021.AP

Bangladesh’s vaccination drive has also taken a hit after India banned exports of vaccines. India’s Serum Institute was supposed to supply 30 million vaccine doses — 5 million doses a month — to Bangladesh by June. However, it has only supplied 7 million doses.

Due to the delay in shipments from India, Banglades had to stop registration for vaccination and now seeking new avenues for vaccines. Bangladesh is expecting 500,000 doses of Chinese vaccines and has sought help from Russia and United States.

The densely populated country of 160 million has vaccinated only 9.3 million people till May 9. The percentage of vaccinations per 100 people also stands at just 5.7 per cent.

Bhutan

Bhutan has been one of the rare success stories in the fight against the Coronavirus pandemic in the world. As of May 11, the Buddhist kingdom has administered a first vaccine dose to more than 63 per cent of its population. Bhutan’s vaccination rate of 63 doses per 100 people is the thirteen highest in the world, according to a Financial Times COVID-19 tracker.

The Himalayan nation was given 1.5 lakh doses by India at the start of this year but chose to hold off the vaccination programme started till March 27. The delay helped the country in planning the vaccination drive and registering all its citizens.

As far as the COVID-19 cases are concerned, Bhutan has reported fewer than 1,300 Coronavirus infections and only one death till now. Anyone who enters the country must quarantine for 21 days and Its borders have been closed for a year with few exceptions.

India has already supplied 64 million doses of vaccines to 80 nations, much of its to neighbouring countries.
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