COVID-19: Of New Vaccines, Community Centres And How Sri Lanka Is Leading The Vaccination Drive

Sri Lanka is currently listed at No. 2 in the global charts in terms of daily doses of a COVID-19 vaccine administered. The country falls behind Malaysia. The country is running an intense race against time to vaccinate all those who are eligible to receive a vaccine against COVID-19 (above the age of 30) in the Western Province after the deadline was set by President Gotabaya Rajapaksa in early June. 

In order to meet this goal, the health authorities have initiated several programmes in the country. 

New Vaccines

On 18 July, Sri Lanka began distribution of the Moderna mRNA-1273 vaccine, the fifth vaccine the country is using in its COVID-19 inoculation drive. And with less than two weeks left until the deadline to inoculate all eligible recipients in the Western Province, local health authorities had approved the use of another vaccine — the China-manufactured Sinovac.

Design credit: Roar Media/Jamie Alphonsus

The first batch of Moderna COVID-19 vaccines arrived in Sri Lanka on 16 July, a donation from the United States government through the World Health Organization’s (WHO) COVAX facility. Over 1.5 million doses of the vaccine were sent to the Kandy district, where distribution began two days later. As of 20 July, 238,383 people had received Moderna vaccine doses.

On the same day, the National Medicines Regulatory Authority (NMRA) granted approval for the use of a second Chinese vaccine, Sinovac. This is the latest COVID-19 vaccine to be approved by the WHO — the approval process was completed on 1 June 2021. Following this, Sri Lanka’s State Minister of Production, Supply, And Regulation of Pharmaceuticals, Channa Jayasumana said that all COVID-19 vaccines approved by the WHO can now be used in Sri Lanka.

Community Vaccination Centres

The Sri Lanka Army’s medical teams were recently deployed to operate ‘Community Vaccination Centres’. One such centre was set up at Colombo’s Vihara Maha Devi Park.

The park’s open-air theatre was overnight converted into a vaccination centre by the Sri Lanka Army. This is the fifth such centre to be established in the Western Province this month. On 5 July, the Army declared open four similar community vaccine centres, where people above the age of 30 can walk in and be administered a COVID-19 vaccine.

The community vaccine centres operate from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. and will be administering the China-manufactured ‘Sinopharm’ vaccines.

Image credit: Roar Media/Akila Jayawardana

In order to be administered a vaccine at one of these centres, one would need to provide proof of permanent residence in the Western Province. If someone is working in the Western Province, a letter from their workplace would be required.

Other community vaccination centres have been set up at the Colombo Army Hospital in Narahenpita, Diyatha Uyana in Battaramulla, at the Panagoda Sri Bodhirajaramaya Temple, and the Sri Lanka Army Medical Corps Regiment Headquarters in Werahera.

Sri Lanka has so far received over eight million doses of the Sinopharm vaccine.

This week, the country recorded three consecutive days of highest single-day vaccine administrations.

About 6.8 million individuals have received a COVID-19 vaccine since the inoculation drive began in January this year, out of which approximately five million have received the Sinopharm vaccine. Roughly 1.6 million of the population eligible for inoculation have been fully vaccinated so far.

Cover image credit: Roar Media/Akila Jayawardana

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