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An employee monitors vials of Covishield on the production line at the Serum Institute of India Ltd. Hadaspar plant in Pune, Maharashtra, India. (Photo: Bloomberg)

India’s vaccine diplomacy wins friends in the Caribbean

An employee monitors vials of Covishield on the production line at the Serum Institute of India Ltd. Hadaspar plant in Pune, Maharashtra, India. (Photo: 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 and the Caribbean, Asia, and Africa. So far, the country has distributed 22.9 million doses under its “Vaccine Friendship” program.

Jamaica’s Prime Minister Andrew Holness last month accused rich countries of “hoarding” vaccines. (File photo)

On Thursday, Dominican Republic Interior Minister Raquel Pena said that India had donated 30,000 doses to her country. That’s on the heels of the 70,000 doses India donated to Dominica — enough to vaccinate the whole population — and 10,000 it provided to Barbados earlier this month.

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.