Buddhist Bhutan the First Nation to Receive Free COVID-19 Vaccines from India
Photo by Craig Lewis
The Himalayan Kingdom of Bhutan earlier this month became the first country to receive a free shipment of COVID-19 vaccines as part of India’s ongoing vaccine diplomacy efforts, receiving a consignment of 150,000 doses on 20 January of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine from India’s domestic production.
“First consignment takes off for Bhutan!” Indian Ministry of External Affairs spokesman Anurag Srivastava stated on social media. “India begins supply of COVID vaccines to its neighboring and key partner countries.”
India, which has a long-established vaccine industry, including the Serum Institute of India (SII), one of the world’s largest vaccine makers, cemented a partnership agreement early in the pandemic to produce the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine domestically under license, using the brandname Covishield. Earlier this month, India reported that it had already stockpiled some 80 million doses, a portion of which will be contributed to the World Health Organization-backed COVAX initiative to distribute vaccines to less prosperous countries.
Under its distribution program, hashtagged #VaccineMaitri, India is also delivering millions of free vaccines to Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Brazil, the Maldives, Mauritius, Morocco, Myanmar, Nepal, the Seychelles, and Sri Lanka.
In a statement on Twitter promoting India’s vaccine diplomacy push, Indian prime minister Narendra Modi said that India was “deeply honored to be a long-trusted partner in meeting the healthcare needs of the global community.”
India's foreign minister, S. Jaishankar, also took to Twitter, exclaiming: “The Pharmacy of the World will deliver to overcome the COVID challenge.”
Bhutanese prime minister Dr. Lotay Tshering. From kuenselonline.com
Remote, landlocked, and perched in the rarified air of the eastern Himalaya, Bhutan is the world’s last remaining Vajrayana Buddhist Kingdom. The ancient spiritual tradition is embedded in the very consciousness and culture of this remote land, where it has flourished with an unbroken history that dates back to its introduction from Tibet by Padmasambhava, also known as Guru Rinpoche, in the eighth century.
Roughly 75 per cent of Bhutan’s population of some 770,000 people identify as Buddhists, according to the Washington, DC-based Pew Research Center, with Hindus accounting for the majority of the remaining 25 per cent. Most of Bhutan’s Buddhists follow either the Drukpa Kagyu or the Nyingma schools of Vajrayana Buddhism.
Dana helps Bhutan to prepare for vaccination programme (Kuensel)
PM to be among the first to take Covid-19 vaccine (Kuensel)
Vaccination to start with Bhutanese travelling outside (Kuensel)
The Covid-19 vaccination plan (Kuensel)
India starts coronavirus vaccine exports with shipments to Bhutan (Reuters)
India starts COVID-19 vaccine exports with shipments to Bhutan (CNA)
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