India's vaccine diplomacy wins friends in the Caribbean

India has distributed 22.9 million doses under its "Vaccine Friendship" programme so far. PHOTO: AFP

NEW DELHI (BLOOMBERG) - India is making tens of thousands of free Covid-19 shots available to Caribbean countries left behind by rich nations in the race to procure vaccines.

The Indian-made shots offer poorer countries an alternative to Chinese vaccines, which Beijing has been pushing across the region.

India's Foreign Ministry says it plans to supply vaccines - mostly free of charge - to 49 countries in Latin America, the Caribbean, Asia and Africa. So far, the country has distributed 22.9 million doses under its "Vaccine Friendship" programme.

On Thursday (Feb 18), Dominican Republic Vice-President Raquel Pena said that India had donated 30,000 doses to her country. That's on the heels of 100,000 doses India donated to Barbados and the 70,000 doses donated to Dominica earlier this month.

In a text message Saturday, Barbados Prime Minister Mia Mottley said 12,000 people had been vaccinated on the island, mainly the elderly and those with chronic illnesses.

The Serum Institute of India, one of the world's largest vaccine producers, is producing Covishield, developed by AstraZeneca Plc.

Poorer countries have been unable to compete for vaccines with wealthier nations which quickly sealed deals with drug makers, and many parts of the Caribbean and Central America are still weeks away from starting their campaigns.

Jamaica's Prime Minister Andrew Holness last month accused rich countries of "hoarding" vaccines.

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