First Covax shipment on Sunday for over 60s

A consignment of between 264,000 and 380,000 doses of the Oxford-AstraZeneca Covishield vaccine is expected to arrive in Sri Lanka through the Covax Facility on Sunday, 7 March to be administered on citizens above 60 years of age.

This would be the long-awaited first batch of vaccines received by the country from the Covax Facility.

Speaking to The Morning yesterday (3), Deputy Director General of Health Services Dr. Hemantha Herath said the Ministry of Health has been officially informed to expect the batch of vaccines on Sunday from the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunisation (GAVI) Covax Facility.

“We are expecting 380,000 Oxford-AstraZeneca Covishield doses on 7 March and those vaccines will be used to vaccinate those above the age of 60, as that is the plan we submitted to GAVI.”

It was initially reported that the first batch of vaccines received by the country from the Covax Facility would contain 264,000 doses.

However, when contacted, Secretary to the Ministry of Primary Healthcare, Epidemics, and Covid Disease Control Dr. Amal Harsha de Silva told us that the consignment would be 260,000 and not 380,000.

Adding that this vaccination plan might be subjected to need-based changes according to spread of the virus as well as the number of deaths in geographical areas and among age groups, Dr. Herath said the current plan is to vaccinate those above 60 years and the group between 30 and 59 years simultaneously.

“Our objectives in vaccination are to prevent deaths, which is more frequent among the population above 60, and to block transmission, which is mostly seen among the age group between 30 and 59,” he elaborated.

Under the Covax Facility, GAVI had agreed to provide Sri Lanka with vaccines to immunise 20% of the population. The timeline for the arrival of the next batch has not been finalised yet, Dr. Herath added.

Covax is part of the Access to Covid-19 Tools (ACT) Accelerator, a framework for global collaboration that was set up in response to a call from G20 leaders in March 2020 at the start of the coronavirus pandemic and was subsequently launched by the World Health Organisation (WHO), the European Commission, France, and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation in April 2020. It is the only global initiative that is working with governments and manufacturers to ensure Covid-19 vaccines are available worldwide to the most vulnerable groups of people, irrespective of their income levels.

A batch of 500,000 Covishield doses arrived from India on 25 February, making the total amount of Covid-19 vaccine doses received by Sri Lanka 1,000,000. On 22 February, the Cabinet of Ministers approved a proposal to purchase 10 million Oxford-AstraZeneca Covishield vaccines for $ 52.5 million from the Serum Institute of India.