Colombo, Jan 29 (efe-epa).- Sri Lanka on Friday began its mass vaccination drive against Covid-19, a day after receiving a shipment of 500,000 vaccines donated by India as part of New Delhi’s diplomatic outreach in the region.
The vaccination began in six hospitals of the Western Province, the worst-affected by the pandemic on the island, as part of the first phase of immunization covering 150,000 health workers and 120,000 personnel of the security forces working on the frontlines in the fight against the new coronavirus.
The first batch of vaccines had arrived in the country on Thursday onboard a special flight and was handed over to Sri Lankan President Gotabaya Rajapaksa by the Indian Ambassador to Sri Lanka Gopal Baglay, the president’s media office said in a statement.
“The stock was donated to Sri Lanka following a request made by the president to Prime Minister of India Narendra Modi,” the statement added.
The island nation has received a shipment of Covishield – jointly developed by British-Swedish pharma company AstraZeneca and the University of Oxford – which is being manufactured by the Serum Institute of India, the largest vaccine manufacturer in the world in terms of volume.
The principal presidential advisor and head of vaccine procurement, Lalith Weeratunga, said in a press conference that Sri Lanka would also receive 300,000 doses of the vaccine developed by Chinese firm Sinopharm as a donation from Beijing.
He added that Rajapaksa has also requested Russia to send a shipment of its anti-Covid vaccine Sputnik V.
Sri Lanka has so far registered over 61,500 infections of the new coronavirus, including 6,854 active cases, and 297 deaths, according to official data.
As the number of infections have declined and the economy has been hit hard by the pandemic, last week Sri Lankan authorities reopened their borders for tourists after a gap of 10 months.
According to the guidelines, visitors will be kept separated from the local population under a “bio-bubble” protocol for at least 14 days. EFE-EPA