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Sri Lanka looking at sources other than India to buy AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine

Gen Shavendra Silva, chief of COVID prevention operations, said supply is being delayed from the Serum Institute of India in the wake of the current COVID crisis in the country

twitter-logoPTI | May 1, 2021 | Updated 16:09 IST
Sri Lanka looking at sources other than India to buy AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine

Sri Lanka is looking at sources other than India to purchase the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine in view of delay in securing the vaccines from the Serum Institute of India, health authorities said on Saturday. The supply is being delayed from India. We have to understand that India has to look after their own country before supplying to us. It is not that they have told no to us," Gen Shavendra Silva, the chief of the COVID prevention operations told reporters.

Silva said that presidential advisor Lalith Weeratunga was looking at other country sources to buy the coronavirus vaccines. Sri Lanka was left with only 300,000 jabs of India-manufactured Covishield when it started rolling out the second jab. Sri Lanka began administering the second dose of the Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine on Wednesday after assurances from Pune-based Serum Institute that it would send more consignments of the vaccine soon.

Sri Lanka had started its COVID-19 vaccination programme in late January, after receiving 500,000 doses of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine from India as a "gift". Subsequently, Sri Lanka placed orders with Serum Institute for more doses of the Covishield vaccine. However, the inoculation programme was affected as the AstraZeneca vaccine manufacturer, Serum Institute of India, suspended vaccine supply, due to a spike in the number of coronavirus cases in India.

The Pune-based vaccine major has entered into a collaboration with the University of Oxford and AstraZeneca to manufacture the vaccine. Sri Lanka's health officials said that COVAX facility, a global initiative to ensure rapid and equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines for all countries, regardless of income level, too has been hampered due to delays from the Serum Institute.

Chief epidemiologist Sudath Samaraweera said Sri Lanka is also considering a mix-and-match approach to the second dose roll out. Experiments are under way in other countries and if there are positive results, we can give another vaccine as the second shot, Samaraweera said.

From January 29 to April 30, around 925,242 people had been given the first jab of Covishied. China has donated 600,000 doses of Sinopharm vaccines to Sri Lanka. However neither the local health regulators or the WHO have approved its emergency use and the vaccine was administered on 2,865 Chinese workers employed in the country.

Also read: COVID-19 treatment: 5 Indian drugmakers ink pacts with Merck for molnupiravir

Also read: Serum Institute CEO Adar Poonawalla plans to begin vaccine production outside India

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