India will gift 200,000 COVID-19 doses to UN peacekeepers: External Affairs Minister to UN Security Council

India, hailed as the pharmacy of the world, on Wednesday announced a gift of 200,000 COVID-19 doses for UN peacekeepers. External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar made the announcement at the UN Security Council open debate on the implementation of resolution 2532 (2020) on the cessation of hostilities in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic. "Keeping in mind the UN Peacekeepers who operate in such difficult circumstances, we would like to announce today a gift of 200,000 doses for them," Jaishankar told the UN Security Council in a virtual address.

Quoting the Bhagavad Gita, Jaishankar said, "Do your work with the welfare of others always in mind."

He told the meeting that it is this spirit in which India approaches the COVID challenge and urged the Council to work collectively to address its different dimensions.

Jaishankar said India is working actively with GAVI, World Health Organisation and ACT Accelerator and its contribution has also supported the SAARC COVID-19, Emergency Fund.

Shortly after the announcement, India's Permanent Representative to the UN Ambassador T S Tirumurti tweeted, "Protecting the Protectors! External Affairs Minister @DrSJaishankar announces a gift of 200,000 doses of vaccines for UN peacekeepers at #UNSC. India responds immediately to request of @UN Secretary General @antonioguterres."

Jaishankar told the Council that India, the pharmacy of the world, has been very much at the forefront of the global fight against the COVID-19 pandemic. India earlier provided critical medicines, diagnostic kits, ventilators and PPEs to more than 150 countries, about 80 of them on a grant basis.

"Today, the pharmacy of the world is stepping forward to meet the global vaccines challenge," he said, adding that two vaccines, including one indigenously developed, have already been granted emergency authorisation. Additionally, as many as 30 candidates are under various stages of development.

Under India's initiative of "Vaccine Maitri", which translates into Vaccine Friendship, the country is providing vaccines to the world and is a significant source of supply to the COVAX facility.

In addition, India is also directly sending vaccines to friends and partners. "Starting with our immediate neighbours, 25 nations across the world have already received Made in India vaccines. 49 more countries will be supplied in the coming days, ranging from Europe, North America, Latin America and the Caribbean to Africa, South-East Asia and the Pacific Islands," he said.

In one of the largest vaccination drives ever, India will vaccinate about 300 million frontline and healthcare workers, elderly and vulnerable over the next six months. "Our vaccination programme, which began a month ago, has already seen nearly seven million people vaccinated," Jaishankar said.

Earlier this week, two versions of the AstraZeneca/Oxford COVID-19 vaccine were given WHO Emergency Use Listing (EUL). The versions of the AstraZeneca/Oxford vaccine, produced by AstraZeneca-SK Bioscience (AZ-SKBio) and the Serum Institute of India (AZ-SII), are now available for global rollout through the COVAX Facility.

Last month, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said that the vaccine production capacity of India is "one of the best assets the world has today", and had applauded India for supplying COVID-19 vaccines to nations around the world.

India has already rolled out a massive coronavirus vaccination drive under which two vaccines, Covishield and Covaxin, are being administered to frontline health workers across the country.

India had airlifted more than 6 million COVID-19 doses to nine countries in Phase-I under "Vaccine Maitri". Contractual supplies to various countries are also being undertaken in a phased manner and New Delhi has said it will gradually supply to the COVAX facility of the World Health Organisation.

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