Sri Lanka replaces Chinese vaccine with India-made AstraZenca shots over safety concerns

In what is being viewed as a big win for India's vaccine diplomacy, Sri Lanka has put on hold Chinese Sinopharm's COVID-19 vaccine and will use India-manufactured Oxford AstraZeneca vaccine to vaccinate 14 million people, media reports said

Feb 27, 2021
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In what is being viewed as a big win for India's vaccine diplomacy, Sri Lanka has put on hold Chinese Sinopharm's COVID-19 vaccine and will use India-manufactured Oxford AstraZeneca vaccine to vaccinate 14 million people, media reports said.

Countries willing to get cheap or free coronavirus vaccine have been skeptical about Chinese vaccines due to lack of information on clinical trials crucial for trust building.

According to media reports, Sri Lanka's Cabinet spokesperson Dr Ramesh Pathirana said the Chinese vaccine is yet to complete phase-III  clinical trials and the complete dossier related to its registration has not been received yet.

Sri Lanka has decided to inoculate its citizens with AstraZeneca vaccine manufactured in India by Serum Institute till it receives complete documentation from China.

"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.

The island country may have to depend on AstraZeneca vaccine made in India as both Chinese Sinopharm's Covid-19 vaccine and Russia's Sputnik V are yet to be approved by the World Health Organisation.

 Sri Lanka's cabinet has sanctioned the purchase of 10 million doses of India-made AstraZenca's Covid-19 vaccine for USD 52.5 million.

India's huge manufacturing capacity to produce Covid-19 vaccine has placed it in an advantageous position against China in the race to gain influence over the developing countries. China had managed to suppress Covid-19 early while India was still struggling to control the spread of the disease with as many as 1 lakh cases reported every day. India faced the challenges on multiple fronts -- economic recession, mass unemployment, Chinese aggression on LAC while it struggled to put together its resources to control the spread of the virus, ensure treatment and lower deaths.

 During this time China also accelerated the production of the vaccine shots to grab the golden opportunity to boost ties in emerging markets it had been looking to enter for quite some time.

However, the Indian government continued to work on a roadmap to vaccinate not only its own people but also offer commercially and in grants the Covid-19 vaccine to the countries in need, especially poor and developing countries by funding the development of the vaccine as well as forging agreements with pharma companies to manufacture the shots in India.

Meanwhile, the Chinese companies failed to share the detail of clinical trials which forced several countries to look for other options. At this juncture, fresh outbreaks in China forced the country to pull up its resources to inoculate its 140 crore population.

Despite the constraints, India managed to send millions of doses to Nepal, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and over 20 more countries, including several nations in Latin America and Africa, under its "Vaccine Maitri" initiative.

The "Vaccine Maitri" initiative began on January 21 and earned India considerable goodwill.

The countries that received the vaccine as grants has noted that India has supplied the doses despite undertaking world's largest vaccination drive.

According to Indian government's statement, the supply of vaccine doses to immediate neighbours has been prioritised keeping with India's "Neighbourhood First Policy".

As Chinese vaccines have been approved only by a handful of countries in the region and so far it has supplied vaccines only to Pakistan and Nepal, AstraZeneca's Covishield vaccine manufactured by Serum Institute in India and having completed all the three phases of clinical trial, has helped the government  to roll out the doses to stride ahead of China in vaccine diplomacy.

“Because of their gift, Sri Lanka has been able to start vaccination immediately,"  Eran Wickramaratne, a Sri Lankan opposition legislator who received one of the Indian shots was quoted saying in a Bloomberg report “Most Sri Lankans would be thankful for this," he added.

"Even though I trust every word of the bible, I must confess that I did not imagine that the prayers of my country would have been answered so swiftly. Thank You India. @narendramodi," Prime Minister of the Commonwealth of Dominica had tweeted.


(IBNS)

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