ECONOMYNEXT – Half a million vials of the Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine manufactured by the Serum Institute of India and donated by the Indian government will arrive in Sri Lanka tomorrow, chief advisor to the president Lalith Weeratunga said.
“We will start vaccination the very next day (29) onwards. The plan is to vaccinate 250,000 frontline workers,” he said on a live broadcast on News.lk, the official government news portal.
Weeratunga, who heads a presidential task force appointed to oversee Sri Lanka’s vaccination drive, said there are some 150,000 health workers and 115,000 to 120,000 police and security forces personnel who have to be vaccinated as a priority.
The government recently approved the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine manufactured by Serum, known as the Covishield vaccine, for use in the island. The consignment of 500,000 vials is scheduled to arrive at 11am tomorrow via an Air India flight, Weeratunga said.
“The Pfizer vaccine has many complications associated with it with regard to storage and transport. It has to be stored under -70 degrees Celsius. We have a limited number of coolers and there are many issues to consider such as transportation,” he said.
“The Covishield vaccine, on the other hand, can be stored in normal storage facilities under 8 -9 degrees Celsius and is therefore much easier to use in Sri Lanka,” he added.
The Vaccines will be transported to the Health Ministry’s central storage facilities by the armed forces where it will be distributed to Health Ministries Regional storage facilities.
Weeratunga further said that China will gift an additional 300,000 vials of its own COVID-19 vaccine to Sri Lanka upon a request by President Gotabaya Rajapaksa. He said that China has agreed to donate its Sinopharm vaccine but discussions are still ongoing on how to bring it to Sri Lanka.
A request has also been made to Russia for its Sputnik V vaccine.
“We believe we will get a reply for that in the near future, but both these vaccines still need the approval of the World Health Organisation (WHO) and the National Medicines Regulatory Authority (NMRA) of Sri Lanka,” said Weeratunga. (Colombo/Jan27/2021)