Sri Lanka suspends Pfizer rollout; one million AstraZeneca doses expected through COVAX Next

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka has suspended administering the Pfizer-BionTech COVID-19 vaccine as the second dose for recipients of the Oxford-AstraZeneca jab following a confirmation that more AstraZeneca will arrive in July, officials said.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has confirmed that over one million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine will arrive in Sri Lanka by July 19 through the WHO co-led COVAX facility, according to Deputy Director of Health Services Dr Hemantha Herath. He did not specify an exact number.

However, it is unclear what manufacturer the vaccines will be sourced from. The WHO lists two versions of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine for emergency use: produced by AstraZeneca-SKBio (Republic of Korea) and the Serum Institute of India (SII. Sri Lanka had so far administered the Covishield brand of the jab manufactured by SII.

Pfizer shots from a batch that arrived Tuesday (06) were scheduled to be administered in Colombo Thursday (08) as the second dose for AstraZeneca recipients but the decision has now been suspended. All appointments that had been confirmed via SMS were cancelled until further notice, the Colombo Municipal Council (CMC).

“Technically the best option is to get the two doses from the same vaccine,” Dr Herath told reporters Thursday (08) morning.

“However, with the issues in acquiring the needed AstraZeneca doses, health authorities decided to go for the next best option which is to give the Pfizer vaccine as the second dose for those who had received the AstraZeneca (Covishield) first dose.”

Sri Lanka started administering the first dose of Covishield in January 2021 till April, after which authorities started rolling out the second dose.

Sri Lanka received only 1,264,000 doses of Covishield intotal. Due to a shortage since then, 540,868 are still awaiting their second dose.

As the weeks went by, long past most people’s due date, the government announced plans to mix and match, the result of which was the arrival of 26,000 doses of Pfizer earlier this week. So far 2,171 people have received Pfizer as their second dose.

“As soon as we get the CVOAX AstraZeneca consignment, we will start administering it as the second dose,” said Herath.

By July 07, Sri Lanka has given the first dose of the AstraZeneca vaccine to 925,242 and only 384,374 have received the second dose so far.

The CMC Medical Officer of Health (MOH) office said the administration of the Chinese Sinopharm vaccine will continue as planned. (Colombo/ July08/2021)

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