India promises more COVID-19 shots to Omicron-hit Africa after Chinese move

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FILE PHOTO: A health official draws a dose of the AstraZeneca's COVID-19 vaccine manufactured by the Serum Institute of India, at Infectious Diseases Hospital in Colombo

NEW DELHI (Reuters) - India stands ready to "expeditiously" send more COVID-19 vaccine to Africa to help fight the Omicron variant, New Delhi said late on Monday after China pledged 1 billion doses to the continent.

India and China have close ties with many African countries but Beijing has pumped much more money into the region, and on Monday promised to invest another $10 billion.

India said it had supplied more than 25 million doses of domestically made shots to 41 African countries, mostly through the global vaccine-distribution network COVAX.

"The Government of India stands ready to support the countries affected in Africa in dealing with the Omicron variant, including by supplies of Made-in-India vaccines," the foreign ministry said in a statement.

"Supplies can be undertaken through COVAX or bilaterally."

It said the government had cleared all orders placed by COVAX for supplies of the AstraZeneca vaccine to countries such as Malawi, Ethiopia, Zambia, Mozambique, Guinea and Lesotho, apart from delivering doses of the home-grown Covaxin shot to Botswana. It did not say how many doses have been approved recently.

"Any new requirement projected either bilaterally or through COVAX will be considered expeditiously," it said, also promising the supply of life-saving drugs, test kits, gloves, PPE kits and medical equipment such as ventilators as required.

India last month resumed overseas shipments of COVID-19 vaccines for the first time since April, when it banned exports to inoculate its own citizens as infections surged.

Domestic vaccine production has more than tripled since then to about 300 million doses a month. The country has administered at least one dose to 83% of its 944 million adults and two doses to 47%.

(Reporting by Krishna N. Das; Editing by Stephen Coates)

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