Sri Lanka, Nepal receive COVID-19 vaccines through COVAX facility

By Laxman Datt Pant

Sri Lanka, Nepal receive COVID-19 vaccines through COVAX facility

On July 16, Sri Lanka received over 1.5 million doses of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine donated by the United States (US) government through the COVAX facility, and the Government of Japan announced on July 13 that approximately 1.6 million doses of the Japanese-made COVID-19 AstraZeneca vaccine would be provided to Nepal as a grant through the COVAX facility.

For Sri Lanka, this is the second shipment of vaccines from COVAX following the delivery in March of the first batch of 264,000 doses of the Oxford AstraZeneca vaccines. In line with the National Vaccine Deployment Plan of the Ministry of Health, Sri Lanka is currently introducing vaccination against COVID-19 for eligible groups.

The consignment arrived as the country, which is home to over 21 million people, continues to fight a second wave of the coronavirus that began in April this year reaching its peak in late May-early June when the average number of daily cases stood at about 3,000 and the daily number of deaths varied between 70 and over 100. The cumulative number of coronavirus cases in Sri Lanka stands at 283,512 which includes almost 200,000 confirmed since early April. The cumulative number of deaths now exceeds 3,700, of which over 3,000 have been recorded since April.

Commending the US for taking the lead in sharing the vaccines with the people of Sri Lanka, Pavithra Wanniarachchi, Minister for Health of Sri Lanka, said:

“This will add momentum to our ongoing efforts to protect our people from the pandemic through vaccination. The pandemic is not confined to a single country, therefore this kind of mutual support will strengthen the global efforts in combating the COVID-19 pandemic.”

Dr. Alaka Singh, WHO Representative to Sri Lanka, noted that COVID-19 has changed global public health in a very fundamental way and this is captured by the solidarity underlined by COVAX and, as co-lead, WHO has championed equitable access to vaccines because “no one is safe unless everyone is safe”.

Meanwhile, the Japanese manufactured AstraZeneca vaccines are expected to enable Nepal’s elderly people to receive the second dose after having had the first vaccination of COVISHIELD, the AstraZeneca-type vaccine produced by the Serum Institute of India. The Embassy of Japan in Nepal stated that these vaccines would also be useful to proceed with the vaccination campaign for the younger generation who are not yet vaccinated.

“The exact shipping schedule will be confirmed once the procurement arrangement has been finalized by the international organization which is in charge of the matter,” the announcement made by MOTEGI Toshimitsu, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Japan, reads.

Under Japanese Grant Aid, Japan has also confirmed it will donate nearly 300 oxygen generators in addition to 25 blood gas analyzers and 25 portable ultrasound image diagnostic systems for the necessary medical care.

So far, Nepal, which was also hit by a second coronavirus wave in April, has secured the vaccination of 2,611,807 people with the first dose and 1,079,192 people have been vaccinated with the second dose. As of 17 July, Nepal has reported over 660,000 confirmed COVID-19 cases and over 9,500 deaths.