ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka will receive two million doses of the Sinopharm COVID-19 vaccine in June, with 400,000 more doses of the Russian Sputnik V expected next month, officials said.
The Sinopharm manufacturer in China has agreed to send a million doses on June 06 followed by another million three days later, State Minister Channa Jayasumana said in an interview by the government information department on June 02.
Sri Lanka has received 1.1 million doses of Sinopharm so far as donations from the Chinese government.
Sri Lanka has made agreements to purchase 13 million doses of the Chinese vaccine by end 2021, the minister said.
The first dose of Sinopharm has been administered to 797,205 Sri Lankans as of June 01, official data shows.
Sri Lanka has also received 65,000 doses of the Russian Sputnik V vaccine so far and, according to Jayasumana, authorities are expecting a reply from Russia regarding the next consignment by June 03.
Sri Lanka expects to purchase 14 million doses of the Russian vaccine as well by end 2021. Health authorities have administrated first dose to 44,189 as of June 01.
The US-based Pfizer Inc too have agreed to provide five million doses of the Pfizer-BionTech vaccine this year, with a consignment of 300,000 to 400,000 expected to arrive in July, he said.
Meanwhile, the World Health Organisation (WHO) approved the other China-manufactured COVID-19 vaccine Sinovac for emergency use on June 01. Following the announcement, Jayasumana said, Sri Lanka can expect Sinovac to be administered in Sri Lanka as well over in a few weeks’ time.
Sri Lanka has come to an agreement with the manufacturer and is also considering producing the vaccine in Sri Lanka, he said.
Sri Lanka is also looking to purchase the single-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine, and discussions have been held with the Janssen Pharmaceutical Companies of Johnson & Johnson in this regard, the minister said.
According to Gavi, the global vaccine alliance, the J&J vaccine is a viral vector vaccine. This means it uses a virus – in this case, a version of an adenoviruses – which causes mild cold or flu symptoms in people. The company has modified this virus to include DNA that codes for the spike protein on the SARS-CoV-2 virus. This spike protein is one of the virus’ identifying features for immune cells, and what the virus uses to weasel its way into our cells.
The adenovirus works its way into cells like a virus normally would, but then injects the genetic material for the spike protein instead. Cells read that DNA to make copies of the spike protein, which then trigger an immune reaction.
In a trial with 43,783 participants across the US, Latin America, and South Africa, the vaccine prevented about 66% of Covid-19 cases. The company found evidence of some immunity in participants two weeks after they got the shot, which appeared to strengthen over time. It also protected against 85% of moderate-to-severe COVID-19 cases – the kinds that would lead someone to seek medical attention – and has so far presented complete protection from death due to COVID-19, international reports noted.
The US government has already ordered 100 million doses of Janssen’s vaccine, the reports said.
Jayasumana said vaccine producers have only agreed to deal with state regulatory bodies and will not come into any agreement with the private sector entities.
“No one can purchase the vaccine from anywhere. Only the State Pharmaceutical Corporation in Sri Lanka has the authority to deal with vaccine manufacturers,” he said, in response to allegations that several requests by the private sector to import vaccines have been turned down.
However, the minister said, the SPC has held discussions with several organisations who presented themselves as vaccine providers.
“Some of these companies were container operation businesses, or were in the logistics business or some other business. They have been producing the vaccine for the black market,” said Jayasumana.
“They were not even abled to provide the vaccine’s details,” he added.
Meanwhile, Sri Lanka is still on the lookout for some 600,000 more doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine to be administered as the second dose.
However, with the Covid 19 cases rising in India, Indian government imposed restrictions on the Serum Institute of India (SII) on exporting vaccines.
“We were in an agreement with SII and they said they will provide the vaccines on specific days,” said Jayasumana.
“However, with the condition worsening in India we decided to take a precautionary step and stop giving the first dose after giving it to 925,242,” he added.
Sri Lanka then turned to other producers of the AstraZeneca vaccine in the UK and South Korea but has yet to receive a positive response, he said.
As another resort Sri Lanka’s health authorities have turned to other European countries that have purchased excess doses of the vaccine.
“This has become politicised and more powerful countries in the world have purchased four to five times more vaccines than they need,” the minister said.
Some external parties have also informed the authorities of their ability to import the AstraZeneca vaccine, but the government will only consider such sources only if quality and manufacturer recommendation are guaranteed.
“The WHO has recently announced that the first dose will give protection up to six months” Jauyasumana said.
“We hope we will get the vaccine as soon as possible, and we ask the public not to fall for misinformation campaigns and remain calm,” he added. (Colombo/ June 02/2021)