Sri Lanka is yet to set a date as to when it will begin the second round of COVID-19 vaccinations as India is yet to confirm if it can cater to the Sri Lankan Government's urgent request to export one million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine, the Daily Mirror learns.
The Serum Institute in India, which manufactures the AstraZeneca vaccine is unable to continue supplying to Sri Lanka's Health Ministry at least for the next one or two months with a sudden spike of infections in almost all Indian states and the Government has now begun talks at the diplomatic level to urgently procure one million doses.
If the Sri Lankan Government successfully secures the one million doses, it can complete the second round of vaccinations as to date nearly one million people including health workers have been vaccinated in the Western Province in the first round.
The Daily Mirror learns that despite an initial assurance that the Serum Institute would supply 500,000 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine in April and a further 500,000 doses in May, which would secure the country for the second round, The Serum Institute is unable to go ahead with a shipment due to a ban in exports of vaccinations imposed by the Indian government.
A senior official from the State Pharmaceutical Corporation here said the Government was in talks directly with the Indian Government to urgently secure one million doses while a senior Indian official said Serum Institute was yet to be notified whether to continue its supply to the Sri Lankan Government.
Although State Minister of Primary Health Care, Epidemics and COVID Disease Control Sudarshini Fernandopulle notified Parliament on April 5 that the vaccination process for those who received the first AstraZeneca doses will commence on April 19, the Epidemiology Unit said they were yet to set a date.
"Once a date is set we will notify the public," Chief Epidemiologist Dr.Sudath Samaraweera said. According to Fernandopulle, around 300,000 doses of AstraZeneca had been set aside for the second round from the initial one million doses which had been supplied by the Serum Institute in India.
Meanwhile, the arrival of 200,000 doses of the Sputnik V vaccine from Russia is also expected to be further delayed as Sri Lankan authorities have notified the manufacturing institute in Russia that it needed the labels on the vaccines to be in English Language.
Initially, the Government was expecting 200,000 doses of the Sputnik V vaccines to arrive in Sri Lanka soon after the Sinhala and Tamil New Year but with the government's new request over the language on the labels, no confirmed date has been set. Sri Lanka will restart the vaccination programme once the Sputnik V doses arrive. (JAMILA HUSAIN)