Will Sri Lanka face a shortage of vaccines for the second dose?
Posted on April 4th, 2021

Courtesy NewsIn.Asia

Colombo, April 3 (Daily Mirror) – The Serum Institute in India, which manufactures Covishied Astrazeneca vaccines, which was administered in Sri Lanka, has informed the State Pharmaceuticals Corporation (SPC) that it is presently unable to supply any further doses due to the temporary ban imposed on vaccine exports by the Indian government.

The Daily Mirror learns that the SPC has sent several emails and made calls to the Serum Institute but it has only responded saying it will not be able to supply the further doses due to the Indian government’s temporary export ban, due to the high demand for vaccines in the Indian market following a staggering rise in COVID-19 infections in several states.

The SPC was expecting 500,000 doses of the Covishield Astrazeneca in April and a further 500,000 in May which would have been sufficient for the health authorities to complete the second round here.

However now with the Serum Institute unsure when they can re-commence supplies, Sri Lanka is left with only an estimated 340,000 doses which will be administered to health workers and tri force personnel who were the first to receive the jabs in late January and February.

Up to now we have not got any positive response from Serum Institute so we are waiting for it. We are continuously sending them emails and calling them but their issue is the government ban. What they say is when the Indian government lifts the ban, they are willing to export it,” a senior SPC official said.

The April and May doses are not confirmed till the Indian government gives them the greenlight. Till then they are not in a position to proceed with this,” the official added.

Chief Epidemiologist of the Epidemiology Unit, Dr. Sudath Samaraweera said that Sri Lanka has in total received 1,264,000 doses of the Astrazeneca doses and as of last morning, 923,954 doses had been administered. Which leads to a remaining of 340,046.

Due to the sudden halt in supplies by Serum Institute, the government has immediately suspended the vaccination programme which was ongoing in the Western Province, to save the remaining doses for the second round. The government says it will commence the second round from mid April.

The SPC says it will continue to be in constant touch with Serum Institute, hoping they could recommence supplies soon.

Meanwhile, as health experts do not recommend the vaccines to be mixed, for example, the first and second doses to be of different brands, and in order to avoid a shortage, the SPC is in discussions with Astrazeneca in UK and have requested the manufacturers in Britain to submit the documents to obtain NMRA clearance. Presently, the SPC is awaiting the documentation from UK.

Meanwhile, 100,000 doses of Russia’s Sputnik V vaccines will arrive in Sri Lanka this month after Sri Lanka signed the initial agreement to purchase 7 million doses.

The SPC official said that Russia’s Gamaleya Research Institute had agreed to supply the 7 million doses within this year, in installments and yesterday the SPC received a confirmation that an additional 6 million doses which had been requested had also been approved. The SPC has received the delivery schedule and the government may recommence the vaccination programme in the country once again after the Sputnik V doses arrive. (Jamila Husain)

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