ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka is yet to give India clearance to ship free doses of the COVISHIELD vaccine which our giant neighbour began distributing to a number of countries in the region as of yesterday.
Shipments to Bhutan, Maldives, Bangladesh, Nepal, Myanmar and Seychelles began yesterday while clearance has not been granted as yet by Sri Lanka, Afghanistan and Mauritius, a press release issued by the government of India said.
Officials in Sri Lanka have said that the National Medicines Regulatory Authority (NMRA) has yet to register the Indian version of the AstraZeneca Oxford vaccine produced by the Serum Institute of India (SII) called COVISHIELD. SII is the world’s largest producer of vaccines in the world by volume.
The first batch was sent to Bhutan and the second to the Maldives, the Indian Ministry of External Affairs said in multiple tweets yesterday.
India’s External Affairs minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar tweeted that his country was fulfilling “its commitment to give vaccines to humanity…The Pharmacy of the World will deliver to overcome the COVID challenge.”
Sri Lanka will also receive free doses of vaccines under the World Health Organisation’s COVAX program which provides free doses of vaccines for low and middle-income countries.
These doses most probably will be the Pfizer vaccine and are expected to be delivered to Sri Lanka by the middle of February officials said.
The Health Department and the government have submitted a vaccine rollout plan which the WHO has approved. Sri Lanka has a robust and internationally regarded vaccine program for children.
A major part of the success of the vaccination of children for a myriad of diseases which Sri Lanka has controlled very successfully is that the Mothers bring their children for their shots.
However vaccinating for Covid 19 is a whole different kettle of fish as older, vulnerable folk as well as high-risk individuals such as drug addicts, street people and frontline sanitation staff need to be given the shot to prevent the spread of the disease.
The Pfizer vaccine has to be kept at minus 70 degrees Celsius and as a result, poses some logistical challenges. However, the plan submitted to the WHO by Sri Lanka does cover all eventualities in this regard, officials said. (Colombo January 21, 2021)
Reported by Arjuna Ranawana