The first batch of Oxford-AstraZeneca’s COVISHIELD Covid-19 vaccines from India reached Sri Lanka today (January 28).
A special flight chartered by Air India (AI 281) touched down at the Bandaranaike International Airport (BIA) at around 11.45 am this morning, with 500,000 vials of doses packed in tailor-made boxes for the purpose.
Reportedly, the weight of the vaccines stored in the aircraft’s special cold storage is at 1,323kg.
The vaccine consignment was ceremonially handed over to President Gotabaya Rajapaksa by Indian High Commissioner to Sri Lanka, Mr Gopal Baglay, the President’s Media Division (PMD) said.
Marking the donation of vaccines, the Indian High Commissioner has presented a memento to the President.
Vaccine stock was donated to Sri Lanka under Indian Government’s “Vaccine Maitri” (Vaccine Friendship) initiative following a request made by the President to Prime Minister of India Narendra Modi.
The gift from India is keeping in line with India’s continued support to Sri Lanka in fighting the COVID pandemic.
COVISHIELD is the local name for the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine developed in the United Kingdom.
The shots developed by UK-based drugmaker AstraZeneca and Oxford University are being manufactured at India’s Serum Institute – world’s largest vaccine manufacturer.
The vaccine, which is known as COVISHIELD, is developed from a weakened version of a common cold virus (known as an adenovirus) from chimpanzees. This has been approved for emergency use by Government of Sri Lanka.
Minister Prasanna Ranatunga, State Ministers Sudarshani Fernandopulle and Channa Jayasumana, Principal Advisor to the President Lalith Weeratunga, Foreign Secretary Admiral Prof. Jayanath Colombage, Commander of Sri Lanka Army and Chief of Defence Staff General Shavendra Silva, Deputy Indian High Commissioner Vinod Jacob, Chairman of the Civil Aviation Authority Major Gen. G. A. Chandrasiri, Ministry Secretaries and heads of the health sector also attended today’s event.
The PMD said the vaccine consignment will be stored in the cold storage of the airport premises and distributed in refrigerated vehicles covering 25 districts. Vaccines are stored at a temperature of 2-8 degrees Celsius.
Sri Lanka will accordingly kick off the inoculation drive at 06 main hospitals in the Western Province tomorrow (29).
Around 150,000 health workers, 120,000 members of Tri-Forces, Police and security forces who are at the frontline of COVID prevention operations will be first administered the vaccine on priority basis, the PMD noted.
Mr Lalith Weeratunga, meanwhile, said the Government of China is also expected to donate around 300,000 vials of doses, in response to a request made by the President.
He noted that getting vaccinated for the novel coronavirus is not mandatory and that inoculation drive will go ahead on a voluntary basis.