On track to immunise 40% of population: Govt.

Saturday, 24 April 2021 01:20 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

  • 7.5 m doses of Sputnik V and Pfizer vaccines expected this year
  • Aims to vaccinate 40% of people by September
  • Sputnik V delivery to start with 200,000 doses in April, Pfizer to follow 
  • Govt. assures sufficient funds at hand for purchases 

Lalith Weeratunga


Agreements between vaccine manufacturers and the State Pharmaceuticals Corporation (SPC) will guarantee the country 2.6 million doses of Sputnik V vaccines by July and 4.94 million doses of Pfizer vaccines by December, allowing the COVID-19 immunisation program to cover 40% of the population by September.

At a press briefing held yesterday, SPC Chairman Dr. Prasanna Gunasena stated that agreements had been signed with manufacturers of both vaccines to receive a set number of doses within a specified timeline.

As such, 35,000 doses of Pfizer vaccines are expected between April and June; 105,000 doses are expected between July and September; and 4.8 million doses are expected between October and December.

The timeline for Sputnik V as detailed in the agreement guarantees 200,000 doses in April, 400,000 doses in May, 800,000 doses in June, and 1.2 million doses in July.

“They have come into agreement with the SPC to provide sufficient vaccines to vaccinate one-third of the country’s population before the end of the year. They initially agreed to seven million doses but raised it to 13 million doses given the situation in the country,” Dr. Gunasena said.

Funding for the vaccines has been secured with the Pfizer vaccines funded by the World Bank and the Asia Development Bank (ADB) and the Government covering the cost of other vaccines.

While Sputnik V has been approved for emergency use in Sri Lanka, Pfizer is yet to receive approval from the National Medicines Regulatory Authority (NMRA), but health authorities were confident NMRA approval will not be a challenge as the vaccine has been approved by the World Health Organization (WHO). Data on the Pfizer vaccine has been submitted to the NMRA for approval.

In addition to Sputnik V, the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine has also received NMRA approval.

“We have completely solved registration issues with three vaccines. In addition to this, approval was given to bring down the Sinopharm vaccine. If the vaccine receives WHO approval in May, we can carry out procedures based on this approval,” Dr. Gunasena said.

Delays in receiving AstraZeneca vaccines from the Serum Institute of India were also addressed during the press briefing. The country has placed an order for 1.5 million vaccines from the Serum Institute of India but has only received 500,000 doses thus far.

Principal Advisor to the President and Presidential Task Force for National Deployment and Vaccination Plan for COVID-19 Vaccine Chairman Lalith Weeratunga explained that the current situation in India had contributed to delays.

“I have great faith that the remaining one million doses can be received in a short period, at least in small quantities at a time,” he said.

“We are also holding discussions with other manufacturers of the AstraZeneca vaccine and we will not face any risks of covering the remaining requirements if we get these opportunities,” Weeratunga added.

Concerns have been raised about the delays in receiving vaccine supplies from India because persons in Sri Lanka will start receiving the second dose from the beginning of May. However, Sri Lanka only has 356,000 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine, with 925,242 having received the first dose since 29 January.

Of the remaining doses, 91,000 doses expire on 24 June and 265,000 doses expire on 16 July. The shelf-life of vaccines prevents the Government from importing large quantities of vaccines at a time, but Weeratunga stated that the country had a three-month period to procure sufficient vaccines for the second dose.

With regard to the number persons vaccinated in the island, Weeratunga said 568,933 of the 925,242 persons vaccinated were from the Colombo, Gampaha and Kalutara Districts. A total of 300,614 persons over the age of 60 have also been vaccinated.

According to the SPC Chairman, if the country receives sufficient doses through the COVAX facility, the Pfizer and Sputnik V vaccines can be administered to persons below the age of 60.


Fresh measures to control COVID-19