Sri Lanka will get millions of vaccines in the coming weeks to fight the spread of Covid -19 in the country as the immunization program is rolled out. The WHO is donating vaccines for 26 percent of the population and three million of these are expected immediately. An order for 18 million vaccines has been placed with India and the first 1.5 million are expected to arrive in the country at the end of this month.
Nearly 193, 000 people have got the vaccine for Covid- 19 since Sri Lanka rolled out the immunization program on the 29th of January. Those who have got the vaccine so far are frontline workers in the government and private medical sectors and members of the tri forces.
‘Yesterday we also started vaccinating the most vulnerable groups such as cleaning and garbage collection staff and residents in high density neighbourhoods’, said a health ministry source. The current drive is to vaccinate people who come into contact with others during the course of their work and also people who live in areas where there have been a high number of Covid cases.
Health authorities are relieved there have been no major side effects reported so far by those who have taken the vaccine.
The Health Ministry is giving the vaccines free of charge to government and private hospitals and universities all over the country, especially those in Covid hotspots.
Sri Lanka is currently administering the Astra- Zeneca vaccine which was donated by India. A consignment of 500, 000 vaccines were sent to the country at the end of last month in keeping with India’s neighbourhood first foreign policy.
While a further two million Pfizer vaccines are also expected, the government is currently considering an offer of a donation of the Sinopharm vaccine.
A vaccine has to go through three tiers of approval before it is released to the market. A technical advisory committee on vaccines, the National Medical Regulatory Authority and the Medical Research Institute have to greenlight it for quality, safety and efficacy.
Meanwhile Sri Lanka is looking at producing the Sputnik V vaccine in -country. The vaccine was developed by the Gamaleya Research Institute of Epidemiology and Microbiology in Russia and will help to overcome supply and demand challenges the country may face if it is produced here.
Dentists, people in the media, religious leaders and politicians will be prioritized to get the vaccine in the coming weeks. When coverage is above 70 percent, it is expected there will be sufficient herd immunity to reduce transmission of the virus to very low levels.