No plans to import first ever DNA Covid-19 vaccine

BY Pamodi Waravita

There are no plans yet on the part of the Health Ministry to import the world’s first deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) vaccine against Covid-19, which was developed in India and approved for use in the country by its drug regulator last week. 

The Health Ministry’s Communications Director, Public Health Services Deputy Director General and Disaster Preparedness and Response Division Head Dr. Hemantha Herath yesterday (23) told The Morning that there are no such plans as only those vaccines that are approved by the World Health Organisation (WHO) and the other relevant authorities including the National Medicines Regulatory Authority (NMRA) will be used in the country. 

“We need to ensure that the vaccines that are bought meet the necessary standards as we cannot afford to purchase vaccines that will later be ineffective or will be deemed as unsuitable for use,” said Dr. Herath.

Last week, India’s drug regulator granted approval for the Indian pharmaceutical company Zydus Cadila’s Covid-19 vaccine, which is not only the first DNA shot against the virus but also the first to be administered in three shots. 

Speaking to The Morning, Consultant Immunologist and the Medical Research Institute’s (MRI) Immunology Department Head, Dr. Rajiva de Silva said that from the vaccines which are currently used in Sri Lanka, the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna jabs are messenger ribonucleic acid (mRNA) vaccines, the Sputnik V and Oxford AstraZeneca jabs are viral vector based vaccines and the Sinopharm vaccine is an inactivated vaccine. 

“Basic differences would be that the mRNA vaccines are very fragile and require cold storage facilities while the DNA vaccines are more stable,” he added. 

According to the Epidemiology Unit, 48% of the country’s population over the age of 30 years has been fully vaccinated whilst almost 100% of the same is partially vaccinated. The authorities are also planning to start the vaccination process for those between the ages of 18 and 30 years from mid September.