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Sri Lanka orders 13.5 million doses of AstraZeneca, likely to drop Chinese COVID-19 vaccines

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Sri Lanka has ordered 13.5 million Oxford AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccines in addition to the 500,000 doses donated by India and the country may not use Chinese vaccines in the second phase of immunization, a government spokesman said on Tuesday.

Ramesh Pathirana, who is also the Minister of Plantations, said Sri Lanka is likely to go only with AstraZeneca vaccines for the second phase of vaccination as the Chinese and Russian vaccines are not ready yet.

“The Chinese vaccine has not submitted the documents related to the phase three evidence,” Mr Pathirana said.

For the first round of vaccinations, the government has placed an order for 10 million doses of AstraZeneca vaccine from the Serum Institute of India at a cost of USD 52.5 million and another 3.5 million doses directly from the UK AstraZeneca Institute under the COVAX program, the spokesman said.

India donated 500,000 doses of the same vaccine that started spreading Sri Lankan vaccines in late January.

Sri Lankan President Gotabaya Rajapaksa thanked India last month for its generosity as it received 500,000 doses of Covishield vaccine donated by the country as part of its “Neighborhood First” policy.

The government will be guided by the best medical advice on when the second dose should be given, Mr Pathirana said, adding that although it was initially believed that the boost should be given after four weeks.

In recent weeks, health experts have said delaying the second dose by three months could increase the effectiveness of the vaccine.

Last month, India announced it would send COVID-19 vaccines under grant assistance to Sri Lanka and seven other countries – Bhutan, the Maldives, Bangladesh, Nepal, Myanmar and the Seychelles, Afghanistan and Mauritius.

India is one of the largest manufacturers of drugs in the world and a growing number of countries have already turned to it to buy coronavirus vaccines.

Sri Lanka has recorded more than 80,500 cases of coronavirus so far with 450 deaths.

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