Sri Lanka to purchase 3 million Covishield jabs; plans to vaccinate 50-60% this year

Economynext – Sri Lanka plans to purchase three million doses of India’s Covishield vaccine and use a combination of Indian, Russian and Chinese-manufactured COVID-19 vaccines pending approval to immunise 50 to 60 per cent of the population within the year, an official said.

Presidential advisor Lalith Weeratunga told reporters today that Sri Lanka has sent a formal request to the Serum Institute of India for the three million vials of the company’s version of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine known as Covishield. This is in addition to half a million doses of the same vaccine arriving in Sri Lanka tomorrow as a donation from the Indian government.

“We are hoping to place a purchase order through the State Pharmaceutical Corporation of Sri Lanka for two to three million doses,” said Weeratunga.

Given global demands, Sri Lanka must act quickly to acquire vaccines for the population as early as possible, he said, but it must be done according to a plan.

“There is no point storing an unnecessarily large amount of vaccine in the country, and this Covishield vaccine has to be used within six months of the manufactured date. We need to plan an operation to speedily distribute it among the general public when we reach that phase,” he said.

Weeratunga further said the government will take similar steps with other vaccines if the National Medicine Regulatory Authority (NMRA) approves them to be used in Sri Lanka.

“Though we have expressed interest to purchase the vaccine as early as possible, we have to wait until the Serum institute accepts it. It will take them some time to deliver that consignment. In the meantime, if the other vaccines are approved by the World Health Organisation (WHO) and t he NMRA, we will do the same with them as well,” he said.

Acting Deputy Director General of Health Services Dr Susi Perera told reporters that with the WHO recommending that people under the age of 20, pregnant and breast-feeding women be not vaccinated, 35 per cent of Sri Lanka’s population will not receive the vaccination.

“When the Ministry of Health listed the groups of people that need to be vaccinated, the we saw that we need to vaccinate more than 20 per cent of the population in order to manage virus. So we decided to vaccinate 50 percent,” she said.

“There is 65 percent that need to be vaccinated excluding the 35 percent [who don’t need vaccination]. The ministry has decided to vaccinate at least 50 percent,” she added.

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Weeratunga claimed the government will be able to vaccinate 50-60 percent of the targeted population within this year.

“We have queued up to get the vaccine from various institutes. Right now what we have is the Oxford-AstraZeneca one. But if Russia’s Sputnik V and China’s Sinopharm also get WHO and NMRA approval based on all the data that is generated out of ongoing trials, we will have a combination of vaccines. Very tentatively I can say 50-60 percent of the targeted group will be vaccinated within the year,” he said. (Colombo/ Jan27/2021)

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