India sent 1 million coronavirus vaccine doses to Nepal this week, a gesture that is expected to help repair the soured relations between the two neighboring countries.
The shipment of the vaccines, developed by AstraZeneca and the Oxford University and made in India, arrived in the country on Friday morning. Indian officials were reportedly present at the airport when the vaccines arrived
Nepal health minister Hridayesh Tripathi said that the first batch of vaccines will be given to healthcare workers, frontline personnel, and senior citizens within the next 10 days.
Tripathi said that the government intends to buy an additional 4 million doses and is seeking India's help. Nepal foreign minister Pradeep Gyawali already visited India last week to talk with government officials regarding the vaccine order.
Relations between India and Nepal have historically been uneasy as the two nations fight over territorial disputes.
In recent weeks, the two countries have exchanged strong-worded statements that had further soured relations. India accused Nepal's government of working with China, a country with which it also has existing territorial disputes.
With the establishment of its own manufacturing facility, India has become the world's largest vaccine producer. Over the past few days, India has been supplied millions of vaccine doses to several countries.
Officials said that they are currently attempting to strike a balance between inoculating its own people and helping out its neighbors that cannot make or procure vaccines.
India's foreign ministry said that it had already sent out 100,000 doses to the Maldives and 150,000 doses to Bhutan. The country plans to send vaccines to Bangladesh, Seychelles, and Myanmar in the coming weeks.
The vaccines were manufactured by the Serum Institute of India under license from AstraZeneca. One of the company's manufacturing buildings had caught fire Thursday, killing five people and injuring dozens.
Serum Institute of India CEO Adar Poonawalla said that the incident will not hamper the company's ability to produce the much-needed vaccine in ample amounts. Poonawalla said that the company has "multiple production buildings" on standby in case of such an incident.