The Sri Lankan government has decided to put the Chinese Sinopharm Covid-19 vaccine on hold and will be using the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine made in India to inoculate 14 million people, officials said. The Chinese vaccine Sinopharm has not yet completed phase 3 clinical trials, Cabinet co-spokesman, Dr Ramesh Pathirana was quoted as saying by Daily Mail. The complete dossier regarding the registration of the Chinese vaccine has also not yet been received, he further added.

The country will mostly rely on AstraZeneca vaccine from the Serum Institute of India. “For the time being, we need to go with the AstraZeneca vaccine. The moment we receive full documentation from the Chinese manufacturer we can consider registering it,” Daily Mirror quoted Pathirana as saying.

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

Registering the Sinopharm vaccine may take time as the World Health Organisation (WHO) is yet to approve it. “It is still under review,” he said.

Sri Lanka on Thursday received 500,000 doses of COVID-19 vaccines ordered from India. “Actively aiding #lka win against COVID, 2nd consignment of 500,000 COVISHIELD vaccines arrived from #India to #lka today,” the High Commission of India in Sri Lanka tweeted.

Sri Lanka’s acting health minister Channa Jayasumana said 500,000 doses of the Covishield vaccine arrived on Thursday. He said the new batch was ordered under an agreement between the State Pharmaceuticals Corporation (SPC) of Sri Lanka and the Serum Institute of India.

India gifted 500,000 doses of the COVID-19 vaccine which kicked off Sri Lanka’s vaccine rollout in late January. 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 a further 3.5 million doses directly from AstraZeneca Institute of UK under the COVAX programme.

Apart from Sri Lanka, other countries have also expressed concerns over the lack of information on Chinese-made vaccines. In January, the Sinovac vaccine was found to be far less effective than the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines, according to a Brazilian government statement.

China on Friday welcomed India supplying more COVID-19 vaccines to a number of countries, playing down reports that New Delhi has beaten Beijing in its vaccine diplomacy around the world. Responding to a question on a report that India has beaten China in its own game of vaccine diplomacy, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin during a media briefing said, “We welcome that and hope to see more countries taking actions to provide vaccines to the world, especially developing countries, to help with the global response.”

A WHO regulatory evaluation of China’s vaccines Sinopharm and Sinovac is expected to be completed by March at the earliest, according to WHO. The lower efficacy rate of Chinese-made vaccines, 50.4 per cent for Sinovac and 79 per cent for Sinopharm, compared to more than 90 per cent for Pfizer and AstraZeneca vaccines could also slow China’s reaching of herd immunity, according to public health experts, the South China Morning Post reported.

(With PTI inputs)

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