News

AstraZeneca donations: COVAX likely to announce countries, stocks this week 

  • 264,000 minimum expected; 600,000 requested

  • SL has to fulfil certain WHO conditions: Health Ministry 

  • Pharmaceuticals State Minister unaware of such conditions 

  • Tech comm. reviewing vaccine mix-match international evidence 

By Yoshitha Perera

 

The Covid-19 Vaccines Global Access (COVAX) facility led in part by the World Health Organisation (WHO) will probably announce the countries and the donations of the Oxford-AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine consignments they will provide, on Wednesday (23) or Thursday (24), Production, Supply, and Regulation of Pharmaceuticals State Minister Prof. Channa Jayasumana said. 

Speaking to The Sunday Morning, he said that though the COVAX facility has selected certain countries to send the doses to, it has not yet confirmed the date. 

He said: “Receiving the 264,000 doses is not confirmed yet, as we had requested them to send more vaccines, at least 600,000. However, we will get a minimum of 264,000, but we are expecting more than that because there are another 560,000 to 570,000 people left without the second dose.”  

Health Ministry Communications Director and Public Health Services Deputy Director General Dr. Hemantha Herath told The Sunday Morning that Sri Lanka has to fulfil certain requirements and report back to the COVAX facility before receiving the consignment of 264,000 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine.  

Dr. Herath said that the Ministry could not state the exact date of receiving the COVAX proposed vaccine consignment until the country met those stipulated conditions.  

However, Prof. Jayasumana said that he was not aware of such conditions that had been imposed since the COVAX facility is providing a donation.  

He noted: “The facility had earlier given us 264,000 doses and to match those, they will provide the same amount this time. There is a usual dossier to complete but it is up to the Health Ministry officials. We need to provide some data to the WHO and the health officials told me that the necessary data had already been sent to the WHO.” 

On 7 March, Sri Lanka received the first batch of 264,000 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine from the COVAX facility, and it purchased another one million doses of the same vaccine from India’s Serum Institute. 

So far, 925,242 people have received their first dose of the AstraZeneca vaccine and among them, only 356,610 received the Covishield vaccine manufactured by the Serum Institute, as their second dose.  

According to the figures, there are around 600,000 people who are awaiting their second jab of the same.  

As per the recent reports, many countries have commenced the vaccine mix-and-match approach and the people who received the AstraZeneca vaccine as the first dose are receiving the Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna vaccines as the second dose. 

However, Dr. Herath explained that Sri Lanka has not made any decision yet to commence the vaccine mix and match, as the relevant health committee is still reviewing the relevant international reports.  

“There are publications and research in this regard. However, we have a professional and technical committee to analyse and review these. We can only make decisions after taking the local reviews into account. As of now, we have not come to a decision in that regard and we are still in the process of reviewing the evidence.” 

Meanwhile, Prof. Jayasumana said that the country will probably receive nearly 300,000 Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines in mid-July from the proposed 500,000 doses for this year. 

“We have sent requests for the Sputnik V vaccine as well. However, there is a delay in the supply, as they had given priority to India, given the present outbreak with the third wave. Though we expected at least 1.5 million Sputnik V vaccines by June, they had only sent us around 130,000 so far – 115,000 first doses and 15,000 second doses.”