India awaits SL clearance to send vaccine

The Government of India is awaiting the necessary regulatory clearances from the Government of Sri Lanka to supply Indian-manufactured vaccines under grant assistance to Sri Lanka, India’s Ministry of External Affairs said yesterday (19).

“The Government of India has received several requests for the supply of Indian-manufactured vaccines from neighbouring and key partner countries. In response to these requests, and in keeping with India’s stated commitment to use India’s vaccine production and delivery capacity to help all of humanity fight the Covid pandemic, supplies under grant assistance to Bhutan, the Maldives, Bangladesh, Nepal, Myanmar, and Seychelles will begin from 20 January 2021. In respect of Sri Lanka, Afghanistan, and Mauritius, we are awaiting their confirmation of necessary regulatory clearances,” a press release from the Indian Ministry stated.

The National Medicines Regulatory Authority (NMRA) should approve any vaccine that is brought into Sri Lanka.

Throughout this month, various government officials and MPs had stated that Sri Lanka had opted for, or is likely to opt for, the Oxford-AstraZeneca anti-Covid-19 vaccine, as it does not require the intense cold chain facilities necessary for the storage of the Pfizer vaccine.

The Indian press release added that India will continue to supply Covid-19 vaccines to partner countries over the coming weeks and months in a phased manner.

“It will be ensured that domestic manufacturers will have adequate stocks to meet domestic requirements while supplying abroad,” it further read.

India on Saturday (16) started inoculating health workers in what is regarded as the world’s largest Covid-19 vaccination drive, with the ultimate aim of inoculating 300 million people.

However, it was revealed yesterday that nearly one-third of those invited to receive the vaccine at the launch of the nationwide drive failed to turn up.

The Government confirmed late on Monday (18) that two post-vaccination deaths had been reported, increasing the hesitancy challenge of delivering the vaccine in the world’s second most populous nation.

India is home to the world’s largest vaccine makers and has one of the biggest immunisation programmes. Nevertheless, there is no playbook for the enormity of the current challenge.