India’s decision to temporarily hold exports of the AstraZeneca Covishield vaccine will not affect Sri Lanka adversely as the country has enough doses for vaccination drives till the end of May, Pharmaceutical Production, Supply and Regulation State Minister Prof. Channa Jayasumana stated yesterday. He said those who received the first dose will be able to receive the second jab on time.
The roll-out of the second dose of AstraZeneca Covishield vaccine in Sri Lanka is scheduled to begin on April 10. Prof. Jayasumana also said that vaccines produced in China (Sinopharm) and Russia (Gamaleya Institute Sputnik V) too will be available in Sri Lanka shortly.
He made this observation at a media conference held in this regard at the Ministry. Both local and international media on Wednesday (24) reported that the Oxford AstraZeneca vaccine, manufactured by the Serum Institute of India (SII) in Pune, India, under the brand name Covishield has been temporarily stopped from being exported outside India.
Commenting on these media reports the State Minister said that India has reportedly put a temporary hold on all major exports of the vaccine made by the SII, the world’s largest vaccine manufacturer, to meet the domestic demand as infections had increased there.
But the SII has not yet officially informed this decision to Sri Lanka, he said.
“The question for many is whether the people who took the first dose in Sri Lanka will be able to take the second dose, or whether there will be any problem. We have received a total of 1.46 million doses of the Oxford AstraZeneca vaccine so far. The first 500,000 doses were received as a grant from the Government of India under its Vaccine Maitri programme. The second consignment of 500,000 doses was purchased by the Government of Sri Lanka. We received another 264,000 doses under the World Health Organization (WHO) COVAX facility. In this manner Sri Lanka has received 1,264,000 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine so far”.
He said as of Wednesday evening, 856,000 individuals have been inoculated with the first dose of the vaccine. Currently, 400,000 doses of vaccines remain in stores. He said Sri Lanka is expecting another consignment of 500,000 doses of Coronavirus vaccines which had already been ordered from India.
Prof. Jayasumana noted there will not be any issue regarding the administration of the second dose, due to the remaining COVID vaccines and the consignment expected to arrive in the island.
“We will be able to administer the second dose till May this year using the doses remaining in our stores. Therefore, there will be no problem until May end. Also, we are in discussion with India and have been unofficially informed that steps will be taken to provide another 500,000 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccines to Sri Lanka. Therefore, those who have already received the first dose of the vaccine will have no problem getting the second one”.
He said the National Drug Regulatory Authority (NMRA) has approved the import of the Chinese-made Sinopharm vaccine to Sri Lanka. “Accordingly, we are confident that Sri Lanka will receive 600,000 doses of the vaccine within a week as a gift. The Chinese Embassy in Colombo has already informed of this move,” he said.
“The Cabinet of Ministers has also approved the decision of the Health Ministry to purchase seven million doses of the Sputnik V vaccine. But Sri Lanka will not get this seven million at once, but rather in installments. They have informed us that the Russian manufacturing company (Gamaleya/Russian Direct Investment Fund) will confirm to us in the next two days what the methodology is and what the schedule is,” he added. Sinopharm and Sputnik V vaccines have been approved in around 40 countries so far. AstraZeneca is also close to gaining approval in the US, the only major market where it is absent so far. (Daily News)