ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka had to rely mainly on Chinese-manufactured Sinopharm after long delays in obtaining Western and Indian-made vaccines, a top official leading the island’s vaccine procurement said.
Sinopharm accounts for nearly 78 percent of the total 13.8 million vaccines obtained by Sri Lankan government as of July 29.
“The most convenient vaccine we were able to get, may be due to our diplomatic relationship, was Sinopham,” Lalith Weeratunga, the chairman of Presidential Task Force for National Deployment and Vaccination Plan for COVID-19 Vaccine told reporters Thursday.
“Pfizer and Moderna were mostly limited to Western countries and Asian countries were facing difficulties in obtaining them. I can say this because I dealt it at a diplomatic level. Purchasing them is a lengthy process and we can’t wait until then.”
Sri Lanka first chose AstraZeneca from India and signed a deal to 10 million doses, but sudden spike of Covid-19 patients in the island nation’s neighbour and a fire at the vaccine manufacturing plant deprived the country obtaining the vaccine.
As of July 28, the authorities have already vaccinated 72% of the population of over 30 years of age with the first dose. They have also completed second vaccination in 16% of the above 30-year age group, President’s office said.
“There is no point of having WHO (World Health Organization) approval and high effectiveness, if there is a lack of availability of a vaccine. So, we had an issue with other vaccines like Pfizer and Moderna. We are getting them only now,” Weeratunga said.
China has also given 2.7 Sinopharm as a grant while the rest of the total 10.7 million vaccines were purchased.
Well before the WHO approval in March, Sri Lanka had received 600,000 doses of Sinopharm vaccine that was to be used for the vaccination of Chinese workers living in the island nation. After the WHO approval, the Chinese dose became the main vaccine across Sri Lanka.
Despite some countries raised concerns over the Sinopharm, researchers from Sri Jayewardenepura University have found that 85 percent of vaccinees developed anti-bodies including agaist the Indian Delta variant.
However the presence of anti-bodies is not the same as efficacy measured in a clinical trial. (Colombo/July29/2021)