ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka expects to receive a range of vaccines against COVID-19 in July in varying numbers of doses, officials said, amid uncertainty about the second dose of the AstraZeneca vaccine and doubt about the efficacy of certain vaccines against the highly transmissible Delta variant.
One million more doses of the Chinese Sinopharm COVID-19 vaccine will arrive on July 06, State Ministry of Production, Supply and Regulation of Pharmaceuticals Secretary Dr Saman Ratnayake told Economy Next.
Ratnayake said Sri Lanka has also sent a schedule to acquire the Russian Sputnik V vaccine, with a consignment expected to arrive in due course, though a date has yet to be confirmed.
So far Sri Lanka has obtained 1,264,000 doses of the AstraZeneca Covishield vaccine, 130,000 doses Sputnik V and 3.1 million doses of Sinopharm.
Ratnayake said a consignment of the Pfizer-BionTech jab is also expected to arrive on July 05, though the number of doses has yet to be finalised.
State Minister of Production, Supply and Regulation of Pharmaceuticals Channa Jayasumana told reporters on June 27 that Sri Lanka will receive Sinovac, the other China-manufactured COVID-19 vaccine, in the first two weeks of July. A batch of the US-manufactured Moderna jab is also expected to arrive in the same period, he said.
Minister of Health Pavithra Wanniarachchi told parliament on June 23 that the government has allocated 129.35 million US dollars for Sputnik V, 33.7 million US dollars Pfizer, 52.5 million US dollars for Covishield and 210 million US dollars for Sinopharm.
Meanwhile Sri Lankan pharmaceutical company Kelun Life Science said their manufacturing plant in the Kandy export processing zone will be dedicated for filling the Sinovac vaccine in Sri Lanka in the near future.
Kelun Life Science Quality Assurance Manager Gayathri Ariyasinghe told the privately owned Derana network that the solution of the vaccine will be imported from China in bulk and will be filled into vials in Sri Lanka.
“At the moment we are doing trial runs with the machine,” Ariyasinghe said.
Kelun Life Science Quality Control Manager Sajani Wijeratne said that upon receiving the solution in bulk by the State Pharmaceutical Corporation (SPC), it will be sent to the Kelun plant and will go through a quality testing process before sent for filling.
“Sinovac is the vaccine that is being tested for most variants of the COVID-19 virus” Wijeratne claimed.
However, Reuters reported June 25 quoting a Chinese disease control centre official that antibodies triggered by the two Chinese COVID-19 vaccines including Sinovac are less effective against the Delta variant compared with other strains but the shots still offer protection.
Sri Lanka has detected five cases of the deadly strain in the community so far.
Wijeratne said in July a specialist team from the World Health Organisation (WHO) will be coming to Sri Lanka to inspect and audit the filling process to give the approval to continue filling.
“We expect to produce 6 million doses by August, 2021 and 7 million dose by September,” Wijeratne said.
“By bringing in bulk we have a great advantage economically. We will save around 30 percent of the cost we spend to bring in doses and also we won’t need to wait for a vaccine,” he added.
Sri Lanka currently uses three COVID-19 vaccines in the country’s COVID-19 immunisation drive.
So far the second dose of the Covishiled vaccine has been given for only 372,868 out of 925,242.
Minister Wanniarachchi said some 582,000 more are awaiting the second dose of the vaccine.
The first dose of Sinopharm meanwhile has been administered to 1,533,780 people so far, while 492,850 have received the second dose as of June 27.
The first dose of Sputnik V has been given to 114,795 so far, while 14,425 have received the second dose as of June 27.
So far Sri Lanka has spent 41.5 million rupees for COVID-19 vaccination, official data shows. (Colombo/June27/2021)