KABUL: India on Sunday handed over half a million doses of COVID-19 vaccines to Afghan officials as its gift to the people of the war-torn nation, a goodwill gesture described by Afghanistan as "a strong sign of generosity and sincere cooperation" of New Delhi with Kabul.
"1st Batch of COVID-19 vaccines arrives in Afghanistan. A consignment of half a million dose of COVID vaccine gifted by India to the people of Afghanistan arrived in Kabul today," the Indian Embassy in Kabul tweeted.
India's Chargé d'Affaires Raghuram S handed over the consignment of vaccines to Wahid Majrooh, Acting Minister of Public Health, it said.
"My profound gratitude to my friend @DrSJaishankar, the government & people of India for assisting 500k dozes of 'Made in India' vaccines to address #Covid spread in Afghanistan.
A clear sign of generosity, commitment & strong partnership indeed," Afghan Foreign Minister Mohammed Haneef Atmar tweeted.
In a brief statement, the Afghan Foreign Ministry expressed its sincere gratitude for the assistance and delivery of the first shipment of the COVID 19 vaccine (COVISHIELD) by "Afghanistan's generous supporter and strategic partner, India."
"The donation of five hundred thousand doses of vaccine to tackle the spread of COVID in Afghanistan in the current difficult circumstances is a strong sign of generosity and sincere cooperation of the Republic of India with the government and people of Afghanistan," it said in the statement.
As a part of expanding cooperation between the two countries, the COVID relief assistance had been announced by India earlier on January 8 during a telephone call between Jaishankar and Atmar.
President Ashraf Ghani has expressed his gratitude for the timely assistance of India, the presidential palace said in a tweet.
In the first phase, the vaccines will be administered to security and defense forces, health workers and other groups at the forefront of the fight against the virus, it added.
Majrooh said senior citizens and patients with chronic diseases such as heart disease, high blood pressure, and diabetes will receive the vaccine from this batch in the second phase.
In the second phase, senior citizens and people with chronic diseases will be immunized against the Coronavirus.
Afghanistan has so far registered 55,359 COVID-19 cases and 2,413 fatalities.
More than 48,041 people have recovered from the contagion.
India is one of the world's biggest drugmakers, and an increasing number of countries have already approached it for procuring the coronavirus vaccines.
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.
While Oxford-AstraZeneca's Covishield is being manufactured by the Serum Institute, and the Covaxin is being produced by Bharat Biotech.
The Ministry of External Affairs has said it will be ensured that domestic manufacturers will have adequate stocks to meet domestic requirements while supplying abroad.