Sri Lanka will likely receive Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine through COVAX: Lalith Weeratunga
ECONOMYNEXT – Frontline workers in health, military and other sectors, people over the age of 60 with non-communicable diseases and select individuals between 50 to 59 years of age that are deemed important to the smooth functioning of the economy will be among 20% of Sri Lankans who will receive a COVID-19 vaccine under the global COVAX facility, an official said.
Chief advisor to the president and head of the newly-appointed presidential task force for Sri Lanka’s COVID-19 vaccination drive Lalith Weeratunga told the privately owned Derana TV today that
155,000 frontline healthcare workers, 127,500 military personnel, 3,159,800 patients of non-communicable diseases over the age of 60 and 1,178,154 people between 55 to 59 years of age have been identified as being eligible for vaccination.
“In total, all categories amount to 20.43 percent of the population,” he said.
The task force was to hand over a proposal on the programme to the World Health Organisation (WHO)’s country representative in Sri Lanka today.
Weeratunga in the interview said no final decision has been taken yet on which vaccine to bring down to Sri Lanka. However, the Oxford-AntraZeneca vaccine vaccine will most likely receive government approval, he said.
“It has a success rate of 75-90 percent depending on the age and health condition of the patient according to initial tests,” he added.
The Pfizer-BionTech vaccine manufactured in the US is difficult to handle in Sri Lanka, Weeratunga said, due to a lack of cold chain facilities. The vaccine needs to be stored and transported in -70 degrees Celsius.
“The Oxford vaccine is now being produced in India. The president plans to hold discussions with Indian officials on possible ways to get the necessary quantity for the country,” he said.
Under the COVAX facility of the WHO, Sri Lanka is eligible to receive vaccines for 20 percent of the population. However, both the manufacturer of the vaccine and the receiver should must with the program. So far only the Pfizer vaccine is registered with COVAX.
A further 1,424,167 citizens between 45 and 49 years of age and 4,843,562 citizens between 30 and 45 years of age are next in line receive the vaccine, said Weeratunga.
“This module is designed to protect the health system, defence system and the economy of the country,” Weerathunga said. (Colombo/Jan 12/2020)