Government in talks with multiple manufacturers to secure vaccines

By Vyshnavy Velrajh

The Government says it is in talks with multiple manufacturers to secure coronavirus vaccines.

Principal Advisor to the President, Lalith Weeratunga said that the discussions include with manufacturers of the AstraZeneca vaccine.

He told the media today that the stock of AstraZeneca vaccines from the Serum Institute of India is insufficient to complete the administration of the second jab.

The Serum Institute has faced a delay in dispatching vaccine doses due to local demand as a result of a spike in Covid cases in India.

Lalith Weeratunga said Sri Lanka had placed an order for 1.5 million doses and was initially provided 500,00 doses.

The institute was thereafter forced to suspend the delivery of the remaining consignments.

Sri Lanka expects the Serum Institute to dispatch more consignments in at least small quantities in the future, he said.

Weeratunga said Sri Lanka expects at least another consignment of nearly 250,000 doses to be dispatched over the next 2 or 3 weeks.

The Principal Advisor to the President pointed out due to the delay in acquiring more vaccine dose, the Government has commenced discussions with other manufacturers of the AstraZeneca vaccine.

He explained that Sri Lanka is in an advantageous position as it has a window of three months to complete administering the 2nd dose for those who have already been provided with the first jab.

Lalith Weeratunga said Sri Lanka expects to receive the necessary stock of AstraZeneca vaccines within this period.

He also pointed out that from the remaining stock of AstraZeneca vaccines in hand, one stock of doses is expected to expire by 21st June and another stock is expected to expire by 16th July.

It is essential for the Government to commence the inoculation of the second jab due to this reason.

Therefore, keeping in mind these facts, discussions are underway with other manufacturers of the AstraZeneca vaccine, he said.

The Principal Advisor to the President further said that Sri Lanka is also expected to receive a stock of the Russian manufactured ‘Sputnik V’ coronavirus vaccine.

This vaccine consignment will also help with the process of inoculating the remaining citizens of the country, he said.

Lalitha Weeratunga said the Government expects at least 2 or 3 million ‘Sputnik V’ vaccines to arrive by July or August.

Commenting on the Chinese manufactured Sinopharm vaccine, he said the National Medicines Regulatory Authority (NMRA) is yet to approve the use of the vaccine for Sri Lankan citizens.

He that more data is required to approve the vaccine and the World Health Organization (WHO) is expected to approve the emergency use of the vaccine in the next few weeks.

Upon receiving the approval, the Government will commence administering doses from the 600,000 vaccine doses received from China thus far to Sri Lankan citizens.

The vulnerable groups to be vaccinated will be selected either within Colombo or outside, he said.

Weeratunga said the situation is not in the hands of the Government as it is supply driven and depends on the manufacturers of the different COVID-19 vaccines.

Over 900,000 Sri Lankans have received the AstraZeneca vaccine as the first jab, while the Government is set to begin the second jab from the 1st week of May.

The Chinese Sinopharm vaccine has been administered only to Chinese Nationals residing in Sri Lanka, while it is yet to receive approval to be used on Sri Lankan citizens. (Colombo Gazette)

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