The Asian Development Bank (ADB) has approved a loan of $150 million for Sri Lanka to purchase vaccines against the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) and improve vaccination information, delivery, and monitoring systems.
The project is part of ADB’s $9 billion Asia Pacific Vaccine Access Facility (APVAX) launched in December 2020 to offer rapid and equitable vaccine-related support to ADB developing member countries.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has tremendously affected Sri Lanka’s economy, which is highly dependent on the services sector and tourism,” said ADB President Masatsugu Asakawa. “ADB’s support will help protect millions of Sri Lankans from COVID-19 and strengthen the government’s response and vaccination program. This is part of ADB’s commitment to help the country overcome the pandemic and achieve a sustainable economic recovery.”
The Government of Sri Lanka has introduced measures to combat COVID-19, including travel restrictions and lockdowns, expanded medical services for testing and health care, social protection support to mitigate job losses among vulnerable groups, and economic measures to help sectors affected by loss of business. In January 2021, the government started inoculating the population in line with its National Deployment and Vaccination Plan for COVID-19 Vaccines.
The ADB loan will help finance the purchase of safe and effective COVID-19 vaccines to immunize about 4 million Sri Lankans, contributing to the government’s target to reach 80% vaccine coverage by 2023. In addition, the project will support the upgrading and establishment of new systems to monitor vaccine deployment, supplies, and logistics, as well as track real-time beneficiary data for an efficient response to the pandemic.
Vaccines eligible for financing must meet at least one of the APVAX eligibility criteria: the vaccine has been selected for procurement through the COVAX mechanism; the vaccine has been prequalified by the World Health Organization (WHO) or WHO emergency use listing; or the vaccine has received regular or emergency licensure or authorization by a Stringent Regulatory Authority.
To promote gender equality and social inclusion, community groups will be trained to provide vaccination information to women and vulnerable groups, while those facing mobility constraints will be provided with dedicated transportation facilities to reach vaccination sites.
The project will support the establishment of sewerage systems in secondary care hospitals, and incinerators and waste segregation facilities in 12 satellite hospitals to safely dispose of vaccine-related medical waste.
ADB is committed to achieving a prosperous, inclusive, resilient, and sustainable Asia and the Pacific, while sustaining its efforts to eradicate extreme poverty. Established in 1966, it is owned by 68 members—49 from the region. (Colombo Gazette)