News

Government’s attempts to procure AstraZeneca vaccines: Positive word from UK

  • Negotiations to obtain 1 m vaccines

  • Govt. also in talks with US for same

  • Looking at open mkt. buys: Keheliya

  • 5 m Pfizer-BioNTech expected this year

  • Approx. 500K Sputnik expected this month

  • Sinopharm delivery details being ironed out

 By Maheesha Mudugamuwa

 

Sri Lanka has received a positive response from the UK to a request made to secure the required stock of Oxford-AstraZeneca (Covishield) Covid-19 vaccines for the administering of the second dose, according to Cabinet Spokesman and Minister Keheliya Rambukwella.

Covishield is manufactured by the Serum Institute of India. Owing to the situation in India, the Institute has not been able to deliver the order placed by Sri Lanka, and therefore, Sri Lanka has had to look elsewhere for stocks of the same.

The Minister told The Sunday Morning that a positive response was received from the UK to supply one million doses of Covishield Covid-19 vaccines and that presently, negotiations are ongoing between the two governments.

“We have also sought necessary stocks from the US and we are negotiating with them to get as many vaccines as possible in order to vaccinate all Sri Lankans, especially those who received the first dose of Covishield,” he said.

Rambukwella noted that in addition to having discussions with the agents of the respective countries, the Government is looking for the required vaccines in open markets.

“This is a global pandemic and there is a global shortage of vaccines. Even if we are ready to pay higher rates, there are no vaccines in the market. The Government has enough funds to purchase vaccines and the issue therefore is not with the funds but with the shortage in supply,” he stressed.

Despite attempts by the Government to secure the required 600,000 Oxford-AstraZeneca Covishield Covid-19 vaccines for administering of the second dose, none of the international agents have responded to the State Pharmaceuticals Corporation (SPC) yet, The Sunday Morning learnt.  

Covishield is manufactured by the Serum Institute of India. Owing to the situation in India, the Institute has not been able to deliver the order placed by Sri Lanka.

SPC General Manager K.M.D.R. Dassanayake said that though the Government as well as the SPC have been attempting to secure the required vaccine stocks, the SPC is yet to receive any confirmation from those with whom they have been having discussions with. 

Earlier, State Minister of Primary Healthcare, Epidemics, and Covid Disease Control Dr. Sudarshini Fernandopulle said that the Government was having discussions with the agents of countries such as South Korea, Norway, the US, and several others that have additional stocks of the same. 

When contacted, Dr. Fernandopulle told The Sunday Morning on Friday (14) that the sole responsibility of purchasing vaccines was with the SPC and that she was not aware of whether a response was received from the agents. 

However, Dassanayake said that the Government is conducting negotiations and that the SPC would get involved at the time of purchasing. 

Commenting on the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine, he said that all initial negotiations with Pfizer Inc. had been concluded and that they would begin delivering vaccines from the third quarter of this year. “During the third quarter, they will give us around 900,000 doses, and during the fourth quarter, they will give us around four million doses,” Dassanayake added. 

Further, Sri Lanka would receive 185,000 doses of the Russian Sputnik V vaccine from 20 to 25 May. Another 400,000 doses of the same are tentatively scheduled for the end of this month, he added.

“For the Chinese Sinopharm, we still haven’t received any delivery details, so we are discussing,” Dassanayake added.