First batch of COVAX Facility COVID vaccines here

Health Minister Pavithra Wanniarachchi, State Minister Dr.Sudharshani Fernandopulle and senior officials receiving the first batch of doses from the WHO’s COVAX Facility yesterday.

Sri Lanka received the first batch of COVID-19 vaccines from the COVAX Facility yesterday. This delivery of 264,000 doses is part of the first of arrivals that will continue culminating in 1,440,000 doses arriving through May.

The additional doses to cover 20% of Sri Lanka’s population will arrive in the second half of 2021. All these doses are donor-funded and provided at no cost to Sri Lanka.

COVAX is a global vaccine initiative co-led by Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI), funded by donations from governments, multilateral institutions and foundations; with UNICEF leading on procurement, logistics, and storage globally in what will be the largest vaccine procurement and supply operation in history.

COVAX is working in partnership with the World Bank, ADB, member countries, civil society organizations, manufacturers, and others to fulfill its mission to help end the acute phase of the pandemic as quickly as possible by enabling global equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines.

The first batch of COVID-19 vaccines from the COVAX Facility is the Astra Zeneca/Oxford vaccine from the Serum Institute of India (SII). This is part of COVAX’s commitment to provide 8.4 million vaccine doses to cover 20% of Sri Lanka’s population.

Health Minister Pavithra Wanniarachchi said the COVAX Facility vaccines plays a vital in the Government’s commitment to vaccinate eligible Sri Lankans, starting with vulnerable groups like those over 60 years old and people residing in high case reporting areas.

“Sri Lanka is one of the first countries to initiate vaccine roll out. We thank our partners for their contributions to protect our population against COVID-19 and for their continuous collaboration in strengthening the country’s capacities and building a more resilient health system for better preparedness and response to future health emergencies”.

It is in every country’s best interest to work together in solidarity to ensure that frontline health workers and older people in all countries start receiving the vaccine as soon as possible. COVAX is a key component of this call to action, which is at the heart of WHO’s vaccine equity campaign and declaration.

WHO Representative to Sri Lanka, Dr Razia Pendse, noted that: “the vaccines are a major breakthrough and a critical addition to our tool kit to fight COVID-19; they are however, not the silver bullet.

Vaccination combined with public health and social measures will help us end the pandemic. It is important that as vaccination is rolled out, we continue to stay the course with each one of us committing to practicing known preventive measures to reduce the spread of the virus; such as physical distancing, wearing a mask, washing our hands with soap, and avoiding crowded and enclosed spaces even when we have received the vaccine. Now is the time to be more vigilant and not let our guard down.”

Not only will vaccines help save lives and stabilize health systems, but they can help to drive a global economic recovery. With a diverse portfolio of vaccines suitable for a range of settings and populations, COVAX is on track to meet its goal of delivering at least 2 billion doses of vaccine to participating countries around the globe in 2021, including at least 1.3 billion donor-funded doses to the 92 AMC developing countries. This is a prime example of the world coming together through investments in research, manufacturing capacity, procurement, and investment in delivery to achieve results at an unprecedented speed.

Welcoming the arrival of 264,000 doses of Covishield vaccines made in India, the High Commissioner of India, Gopal Baglay, said: “it is a matter of great happiness that the first consignment of vaccines to Sri Lanka under the COVAX Facility has arrived from India. Ramped up vaccine capacities in India, the global leader in vaccine production, benefit humanity the world over in fighting the COVID-19 pandemic. India remains committed to strong cooperation with the international community to this end”.

The arrival of this initial batch is the result of an extensive planning process; over the past several months.

COVAX partners have been supporting the Government of Sri Lanka in COVID-19 vaccination readiness activities. The Government’s commitment to slowing and preventing the spread of COVID-19 is reflected in their early vaccine roll out and continued efforts to distribute vaccines equitably. 

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