Sri Lanka expects Indian vaccine next month - Dr. Sudarshini Fernandopulle | Sunday Observer

Sri Lanka expects Indian vaccine next month - Dr. Sudarshini Fernandopulle

10 January, 2021

State Minister of Primary Health Care, Epidemics and Covid-19 Disease Control, Dr. Sudarshini Fernandopulle said that if everything goes well, Sri Lanka expects to roll out the vaccine by mid February this year.

She told the Sunday Observer that negotiations are under way with the Indian government to purchase one of the vaccines the country is currently producing.

“Covax will provide 20 percent and the balance requirement will be purchased by the Government. The Government is negotiating with the Indian Government on purchasing Astrazeneca,” Dr. Fernandopulle said, adding that if everything is on track the vaccination process will commence in mid-February this year.

The World Health Organization (WHO) will provide vaccines to cover 20 percent of the population.

During a previous interview, Dr. Fernandopulle said the vaccination process will be carried out in the form of a public-private partnership and the Government will vaccinate the public free. During the first phase, the frontline workers, people over the age of 60 and those with comorbidities will be given priority.

Maiden visit

On his maiden visit to Sri Lanka this year, the Indian Foreign Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar said Sri Lanka will be prioritised when Covid-19 vaccines produced in India are exported.

The Indian Foreign Minister said on Wednesday (6) that they are now looking at a post-Covid-19 cooperation with Sri Lanka’s interest in accessing vaccines from India.

“Right now, India and Sri Lanka both face the immediate challenge of post-Covid-19 recovery. This is not just a public health issue but equally, a crisis of the economy. Where India is concerned, our Covid-19 numbers have come down sharply and the prospect of mass vaccination is in sight. The Indian economy has also shown strong signs of recovery in the past few months.”

“We are confident that this will be full-blown by the next quarter. These developments will obviously have a positive impact on Sri Lanka. At the same time, there are specific challenges that need addressing, whether in finance or trade. My visit is aimed at facilitating that process,” he said.

India commenced mass production of Covid-19 vaccines to supply them to the nation as well as the rest of the world. Two of the country’s biggest pharmaceutical companies announced their venture in a joint communiqué, he said.

This came after the issuance of the Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) for two vaccines made in India. “The more important task before them is saving the lives and livelihoods of populations in India and the world.

Vaccines are a global public health good and they have the power to save lives and accelerate the return to economic normalcy at the earliest,” CEO, The Serum Institute of India (SII), Adar Poonawalla and Bharat Biotech’s Chairman, Dr. Krishna Ella stated in their joint communiqué.

“Now that two Covid-19 vaccines have been issued EUA in India, the focus is on manufacturing, supply and distribution, and that populations that need it the most receive high quality, safe and efficacious vaccines,” the companies stated, adding,

“We are fully aware of the importance of vaccines for people and countries alike, we hereby communicate our joint pledge to provide global access for our Covid-19 vaccines.”

According to the Indian media, SII is expected to produce a version of Astra-Zeneca Oxford Vaccine (AZD1222) dubbed Covishield, and Bharat Biotech is producing Covaxine.

Health Minister Pavithra Wanniarachchi said in Parliament on Thursday (7) around 155,000 front line healthcare workers will receive the Covid-19 vaccine first, adding that diplomatic discussions were held with China, Russia and India to receive the vaccine.

She said a proposal was presented to GAVI with information regarding the development of cold storage facilities for the vaccine. The Government expects a grant of USD 370,000 to develop the cold storage facilities. The Asian Development Bank is due to give a grant of USD 5 million she said.

Training program

She said a training program is arranged to train health care workers to administer the vaccines.

“Our National Deployment of Vaccination Plan (NDVP) should be submitted to COVAX before January 15 and 60 percent of it has been completed and the complete plan will be handed over to the WHO’s Covax facility on January 12,” she added.

The Health Minister said there was a technical opinion that pregnant women and children (those below the age of 18) should not be given the vaccine although this group is said to account for about 35 percent of the total population.

Those who will be vaccinated are as follows: priority will be given to frontline health care workers amounting to 155,000 (0.68 per cent) of the population, frontline Tri Forces and police officers amounting to 127,500 (0.56 percent), elderly population above 60 years, amounting to 3,159,800 (14 percent), migrant and sanitation workers and those in other high-risk groups that make 225,700 (1 percent) of the population.

Working class people with underlying health conditions aged between 18-59 that amount to 3,227,510 (14.3 per cent) and working-class people between the age of 40-59 that amount to 3,114,660 (13.8 per cent) of the population.