ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lankans vaccinated with China-made Sinopharm who have concerns about visa approvals from countries that have requested other vaccines for travelers, have no clear solution as yet, a minister said.
But authorities are offering a choice of vaccines for those students who are not yet vaccinated and those who have secured jobs abroad.
Already 9.48 million Sri Lankans have received Sinopharm as the first dose and over 4 million have received both doses.
“If they have got both Sinopharm vaccines, then there is no alternative,” Co-cabinet Spokesman Ramesh Pathirana told reporters Wednesday.
“The World Health Organization (WHO) has not given any recommendation in such cases.
“Only Covishield was given that kind of recommendation under mix and match. Apart from that unfortunately so far there is no recommendation from health sector.”
Shanghai Fosun, a China-based pharma company has already stuck a deal with Biontech to sell around 100 million Pfizer vaccines and also produce them (China’s approval of mRNA vaccine ‘in final stage’), with reports saying they intend to use it as a booster.
Western nations including most European countries have mandated foreign visitors to take other vaccines like AstraZeneca, Johnson and Johnson, Pfizer, and Moderna.
Out of 29 European Union nations, only eight countries have approved Sinopharm for domestic use.
Key EU nations like Germany, France, Netherland, Belgium, and Switzerland are yet to approve the Chinese vaccines.
The United States, Canada, Japan, India, Australia, The United Kingdom, and New Zealand are some of the countries which are yet to approve Sinopharm.
Several European countries however allow persons using World Health Organization approved vaccines including Sinopharm to travel, including Spain.
Sri Lankans vaccinated with Sinopharm who visited the US in recent weeks have reported no problems as long as they have a negative pre-departure PCR test.
But students and workers travelling to some countries want alternatives.
Easy availability of Sinopharm and delays in getting Western-made vaccines has made Sinopharm the most commonly used vaccine in Sri Lanka.
The government, however, now has announced they will administer Pfizer or AstraZeneca for those who are expected to leave Sri Lanka for foreign jobs and education.
“Already the expatriate workers are given the vaccine of their choice,” Pathirana said. “Through the Foreign Employment Bureau, around 8,000 people have already got vaccines of their choice
“At the initial stage we mostly had only Sinopharm. We could not think of anything because we had limited vaccines.
“But now all the vaccines are available in Sri Lanka. People can get vaccinated any (available) vaccines required to get the visa or requested by the country they are going.”