Around 3000 foreign diplomats and their eligible family members based out of India have sent names for New Delhi's offer for vaccination against COVID. India had offered vaccination using India-manufactured COVID vaccine to diplomats based in the country - both in the national capital Delhi and various consulates across the country. Around 115 missions and 39 international organisations responded to the Indian offer and a final call will be soon taken on when the vaccination starts.
Many of the envoys and diplomats based out of India welcomed the initiative. Denmark's Ambassador to India Freddy Svane told us, "The Government of India has offered all diplomats and their dependents to be included in India's vaccination schedule. Great initiative. Personally, I am very keen not to jump any queue".
Lauding the initiative, Ambassador of Italy to India Vincenzo de Luca speaking to us said, "We believe that it is a commendable initiative which is also in line with a similar programme launched by the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs for the foreign diplomatic community accredited in Italy. These programmes confirm that the purpose of countering the COVID-19 pandemic is better served through global solidarity and effective international cooperation."
Indonesian Cd'A Ferdy Nico Yohannes Piay also appreciated, the "Government of India's efforts in running the biggest Covid-19 vaccination drive in the world, and welcomes its policy to also include foreign service officers based in India in its program".
Elaborating, "India’s strong commitment to provide its self-made vaccines to the neighbouring countries and beyond will surely place India at leading role and the forefront of this war against the pandemic".
India began its mega vaccination drive on January 16 and so far, 62.6 lakh healthcare workers have been vaccinated against COVID.
Kazakhstan's envoy to India Yerlan Alimbayev said, "We welcome the gesture of goodwill and solidarity offered by the Indian Government in terms of COVID-19 vaccination for foreign diplomats based in New Delhi. So far, our staff and their family members are considering this option. Just like in Kazakhstan, I believe, this is a voluntary decision for people in India as well."
He explained, in response to our question, "As you probably know, a vaccination in Kazakhstan kicked off recently, on February 1. Like in India, a priority also is given to medical and frontline workers. Kazakhstan uses the 'Sputnik V' vaccine and our own vaccine is under the last phase of trials. We have to check with our capital whether Indian vaccine is registered in Kazakhstan and will decide accordingly."
India has been reaching out to foreign diplomats on its action plan on how to deal with a COVID pandemic. Last year, foreign secretary Harsh Shringla briefed 190 heads of diplomatic missions on a COVID action plan. It was followed by the visit of over 50 foreign envoys based out of Delhi going to Hyderabad to showcase the country's vaccine production centres at 2 biotechnology companies - Bharat Biotech and Biological E.
India produces 60% of global vaccines, and so far supplied COVID vaccines to 18 countries both as gifts and commercially. Vaccines have been sent to countries in the neighbourhood and beyond. These countries are Bhutan, Maldives, Bangladesh, Nepal, Myanmar, Mauritius, Seychelles, Sri Lanka, the UAE, Brazil, Morocco, Bahrain, Oman, Egypt, Algeria, Kuwait, South Africa, and Afghanistan. It has gifted 56 lakh doses and commercially supplied 100 lakh doses.