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SANTO DOMINGO, DR, Weds. Feb. 17, 2021 (Reuters) – The Dominican Republic started inoculating medical staff against COVID-19 on Tuesday as it launched its vaccination campaign following the arrival of the first 20,000 doses of the Oxford University-AstraZeneca vaccine.

Speaking at the Air Force hospital where the campaign started, President Luis Abinader said his government had acquired 110,000 doses of the vaccine from the Serum Institute of India (SII) due to delays by other vaccine makers.

The SII, the world’s biggest vaccine maker, has licensed the vaccine from AstraZeneca and Oxford University and markets it as COVISHIELD for low-and middle-income countries.

The Dominican Republic is the Caribbean country worst hit by the pandemic, registering 2,975 deaths and around 231,950 infections to date.

Abinader’s government plans to vaccinate the country’s 7.8 million adults in three phases by the end of the year. By the end of July it hopes to have vaccinated the 2.7 million people who are over 50 years old, as well as all healthcare staff, teachers and the military.

In addition to the 110,000 doses from the SII, the country has signed up for 10 million shots directly from AstraZeneca, 8 million from Pfizer, 768,000 from Sinopharm and 542,000 from the global vaccine sharing scheme COVAX.

(Reporting by Ezequiel Abiu Lopez Editing by Sarah Marsh and Sonya Hepinstall)

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