Stocks to expire between June-July
Govt. in pickle over balance 500K-plus populace expecting second dose
Will administer before expiry: Lalith Weeratunga
Govt in talks with other AstraZeneca vaccine makers
Sputnik V, Pfizer stocks expected in the coming months
WHO to dispatch vaccines for a third of populace
The Government is yet to figure out how it is to administer the limited available stocks of the second dose of the Oxford AstraZeneca Covishield anti Covid-19 vaccine to almost half a million Sri Lankans who received the first dose of the same vaccine, as prevailing stocks are only sufficient to cater to 350,000 individuals.
According to Government statistics, a total of 925,242 persons have been vaccinated with the Oxford AstraZeneca Covishield vaccine as of now, and only 356,000 doses are remaining in the country. Of these stocks, 91,000 are to expire on 24 June, while 265,000 are to expire on 16 July.
Covid-19 Vaccine Procurement Committee Chairman and Senior Advisor to the President Lalith Weeratunga said that therefore, the available vaccines would be administered before their expiration, and that the Government is hopeful of receiving the rest of the stocks required for the second dose within the next three months.
Speaking at a special media conference held on Friday (23), Weeratunga further said that the Government is hopeful of receiving the expected one million doses from the Serum Institute of India within a short period of time.
Weeratunga attributed the delay in receiving the vaccine stocks to the ongoing Covid-19 situation in India.
State Minister of Primary Health Care, Epidemics, and Covid Disease Control Dr. Sudarshini Fernandopulle also said that there has been no fixed date as of yet to receive the stocks from the Serum Institute of India, but that the Government is hopeful it would receive these stocks within the next few months.
She however told The Sunday Morning that there would be a continuous supply of vaccines, and thereby assured the continuation of the vaccination programme despite the delay in receiving India’s Oxford AstraZeneca Covishield vaccine doses.
Meanwhile, Weeratunga added that the Government was holding discussions with other countries that are producing the Oxford AstraZeneca vaccine.
State Pharmaceuticals Corporation (SPC) Chairman Dr. Prasanna Gunasena elaborated that Sri Lanka had already held discussions with companies such as Serum, Sputnik, Pfizer, Sinopharm, and Johnson & Johnson to secure varieties of vaccines for Sri Lanka.
According to him, 200,000 Sputnik V vaccines will be dispatched to Sri Lanka from Russia by the end of this month, followed by another 400,000 doses in May, 800,000 in June, and 1.2 million in July. In addition, the country is to receive a total of 35,000 doses of the Pfizer vaccine between April and June, and another 105,000 between June and September.
Further, another 4.5 million doses of the Pfizer vaccine would be delivered between October and December with financial assistance from the World Bank.
“Other vaccines would be purchased with financial assistance from the Asian Development Bank and state funds,” he said, adding that in addition to the vaccines ordered by the Government, the World Health Organisation would dispatch sufficient vaccines for one-third of the country’s population; therefore the country would be able to vaccinate around 40% of its population by September this year.
However, the Health Ministry plans to begin administering the second dose from the first week of May.
As recommended by the World Health Organisation (WHO), the Oxford AstraZeneca vaccine should be administered in two doses, given intramuscularly (0.5 millilitres each) with an interval of eight to 12 weeks. Sri Lanka commenced its Covid-19 vaccination programme on 29 January.
A total of 67,927 doses of the AstraZeneca Covishield vaccine have been given to health sector personnel. The number of vaccines given to non-health frontline staff working to control the Covid-19 pandemic is 128,700. Among the others, 43,329 vaccines have been given to people working in high-risk areas. The vaccine has also been given to 3,309 persons suffering from the chronic kidney disease.
As per the Health Ministry statistics, the first dose of the AstraZeneca Covishield vaccine has been given to 230,832 people over the age of 60, and 35,663 people between the ages of 30 and 60, within the community.