By Sheain Fernandopulle
Indian Airlines Flight AI 281 carrying 500,000 Oxford AstraZeneca vaccines donated by India landed at the Bandaranaike International Airport (BIA) yesterday.
This is the first consignment of Oxford - AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccines to arrive in Sri Lanka. The consignment weighing 1.32 tonnes was packed in 42 boxes.
Indian High Commissioner Gopal Baglay officially handed over the consignment of COVID-19 vaccines to President Gotabaya Rajapaksa at the Airport. Before accepting the vaccine consignment, the Indian High Commissioner offered prayers at the Gangaramaya Temple for the health and well-being of the people of Sri Lanka marking Duruthu Poya.
Addressing the gathering, President Rajapaksa said, “We are happy to announce that we have received 500,000 COVID-19 vaccines donated by the Government of India. We would like to thank PM Narendra Modi and the people of India for the generosity shown towards the people of Sri Lanka at this time of need.” State Ministers Prof. Channa Jayasumana and Dr. Sudarshani Fernandopulle, Minister Prasanna Ranatunga, Army Commander General Shavendra Silva and Senior Advisor to President and COVID Vaccine Committee Chairman Lalith Weeratunga were also present at the occasion. The Consignment was subsequently stored at Central Vaccine Store located at De Saram Place, Colombo 10. The AstraZeneca COVISHELD vaccine, developed by the University of Oxford in England, is manufactured by the Serum Institute in Mumbai.
Meanwhile, Health Services Deputy Director General Dr. Hemantha Herath said the COVID-19 vaccination programme will commence at six hospitals under the first stage. Accordingly, the vaccination programme would be held at the National Hospital in Colombo, Colombo South Teaching Hospital in Kalubowila, Colombo North Teaching Hospital in Ragama, Homagama Base Hospital, Colombo East Base Hospital in Mulleriyawa and the Infectious Disease Hospital (IDH) in Angoda. He also said that around 25 per cent of the staff at these hospitals would be vaccinated at the start in order ascertain and determine whether there are any allergy with the vaccine.
Moreover, the President’s Media Division (PMD) said it is planned to first vaccinate about 150,000 health personnel, 120,000 police and security forces personnel who are in the forefront of the combat against Covid.
Principal Advisor to the President and Chief of the Presidential Task Force on Covid Vaccine Procurement Lalith Weeratunga said the Chinese government would also provide 300,000 stocks of vaccines, the PMD added. Inoculation of front line health workers covering all districts is scheduled to commence from tomorrow (30).
- The AstraZeneca COVISHELD vaccine, developed by the University of Oxford in England, is manufactured by the Serum Institute in Mumbai