India seeks to rival China with shipments of COVID-19 vaccines

New Delhi, Feb 07 (Reuters):
India has approved the shipment of COVID-19 vaccine to Cambodia and plans to supply Mongolia and Pacific Island states, officials said on Sunday, as supplies arrived in Afghanistan, all part of the country’s widening vaccine diplomacy.
Seeking to steal a march over rival Asian giant China, which has also promised to deliver shots, Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government has been giving nearby countries millions of doses of the locally made AstraZeneca PLC vaccine, even as its domestic immunisation programme has just begun. New Delhi has approved 100,000 doses for Cambodia on an urgent basis following a request to Modi from Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen, India’s envoy to Phnom Penh said. Cambodia is an important ally of China, which is expected to provide a million doses of COVID-19 vaccines, mainly developed by state firm Sinopharm. ‘The supply has been assured through the Serum Institute of India despite innumerable competing requests from partner countries and our commitment to our domestic population,’ said Ambassador Devyani Khobragade.
India has given doses to Myanmar, Bangladesh, Nepal, Sri Lanka and the Maldives to help them get started with frontline workers as part of its Vaccine Friendship initiative. On Sunday it sent 500,000 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine to Afghanistan, the first to arrive in the war-ravaged country, which is still waiting for emergency approval from the World Health Organization to administer them.

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