Colombo: Sri Lanka has temporarily halted its COVID-19 vaccination programme as there was a delay in securing more AstraZeneca vaccines from the Serum Institute of India, a top health minister has said.
Sri Lanka launched its inoculation programme late January when India gifted 500,000 doses of Oxford-AstraZeneca. Till Thursday 913,219 people out of the island nation’s 21 million population had been vaccinated.
Vaccination programme has been halted from Wednesday night due to the need to use the available Oxford-AstraZeneca doses for the second jab of those already vaccinated, primary health care and COVID-19 prevention minister Dr Sudarshani Fernandopulle was quoted as saying by the Daily Mirror newspaper on Friday.
She said the COVID-19 vaccination programme was temporarily suspended as there was a delay in securing more AstraZeneca vaccines, the report added.
The Serum Institute of India (SII) recently suspended exports of the AstraZeneca vaccine.
The WHO has recommended that the second jab must be made available within 12 weeks of the first. The second dose was to be administered from April 19, the report said.
After the free gift, Sri Lanka placed an order for more doses of the Indian vaccine.
The Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine, Covishield, has been developed in collaboration with SII.
The Pune-based vaccine major has entered into a collaboration with the University of Oxford and AstraZeneca to manufacture the vaccine.
The Serum Institute had curtailed exports in the recent weeks.
So, Fernandopulle said that Sri Lanka was not able to gain any assurances on the arrival of the next consignment from India in time.
This week China donated 600,000 doses of Sinopharm vaccines. However neither the local health regulators or the WHO have approved its emergency use.
Officials said the Chinese vaccine will be administered on the Chinese workers in the country.
Sri Lanka is also to order 700,000 doses of the Russian Sputnik V vaccine.