NMRA approves Pfizer vaccine for use in SL

  • President holds discussion with WHO Head
  • WHO pledges to support SL’s effort to source 600,000 doses of AstraZeneca 
  • Sputnik V being rolled out with no side effects, says State Minister

Sri Lanka’s COVID-19 vaccination program is expected to pick up once again, with the National Medicines Regulatory Authority (NMRA) approval given for the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine yesterday and possible World Health Organisation (WHO) approval for Sinopharm by next week. 

President Gotabaya Rajapaksa held discussions with WHO Director-General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus on COVID-19 response measures and vaccination.

According to a tweet posted by President Gotabaya’s account after the talks, it was revealed during the discussion held online that Sinopharm, the COVID-19 vaccine developed in China, would receive WHO approval for emergency use by Monday. However, later in the day WHO announced it has approved the vaccine. 

“With that approval, #lka will be able to start vaccinating our people with the current stock of 600,000 #Sinopharm doses in hand,” the tweet read.

At present, only 5,300 doses of Sinopharm have been used and that, too, to vaccinate Chinese nationals working in Sri Lanka. Approval for the use of Sinopharm to vaccinate Sri Lankans will follow WHO approval.

President Rajapaksa also tweeted: “I believe he will make an effort to fulfil #lka need for 600,000 doses of #AstraZeneca for the second dose of vaccination. Globally, there is a need for 20 million doses of the #AstraZeneca for the second dose.”

According to Pharmaceutical Production, Supply and Regulation State Minister Channa Jayasumana, Sinopharm will be used to vaccinate Sri Lankans starting next week. The vaccination program will target Grama Niladhari Divisions in order of the number of infections detected in the area.

The country is facing a shortage of the AstraZeneca vaccine due to a delay in supplies from India and has been able to fully vaccinate only 157,551 of the 925,242 persons who received the first dose of the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine.

In a tweet thanking President Rajapaksa for the call, Dr. Ghebreyesus said: “We discussed the need to keep implementing public health measures to control transmission and stressed @WHO’s commitment to help [Sri Lanka] overcome challenges in accessing needed vaccines.”

Meanwhile, Primary Health Care, Epidemics and COVID Disease Control State Minister Dr. Sudarshini Fernandopulle yesterday said the NMRA advisory committee had approved the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine for use in Sri Lanka and that arrangements are being made to bring down five million doses of the vaccine to the country.

She added that close to 150,000 persons had been fully vaccinated under the COVAX facility.

The Sputnik V vaccine is also being administered in Sri Lanka and Dr. Fernandopulle said: “The first dose has been administered to 661 persons as of now and no side effects have been reported. By the end of the month, we will receive vaccine supplies for the country’s population.” 

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