By Rajasinghe Bandara –
According to the Sri Lankan media and the government, buying Oxford AstraZeneca covid-19 vaccine is extremely difficult and expensive because of the surge of the pandemic in India. It was reported ‘Sri Lanka is facing a severe shortage of AstraZeneca vaccines as the producer in the neighbouring India failed to provide the promised stock due to the crisis in that country.’
After the first vaccine in January this year, around 600,000 people have been waiting to get 2nd jab for more than 4 months. According to the Oxford AstraZeneca company to get higher rates of efficacy, dosing intervals between two doses should be 90 days.
To help the situation in Sri Lanka I spoke to one of the executive directors of AstraZeneca biopharmaceutical company on 16 June 2021 and asked about the prices and availability of the vaccines. He said, ‘the prices are between $3-$5’. Then I asked whether there was a different pricing for developed countries and developing countries. He said ‘No, those are the global rates. Next question I asked was, about the availability and the time scale for supplying. ‘It depends, once we have the order we manufacture and send them to the destinations without delay. We have the capacity to do it.’ he explained,
Then I thanked him and said ‘I am going to pass the information to Sri Lanka’. During his stay in the UK last week, for G7 summit, American President Joe Biden ordered half a billion doses of AstraZeneca vaccine from the pharmaceutical company to help other countries, to fight against the pandemic. I hope this is enough to understand the efficacy of the jab and the capacity of the manufacturer.
On March 25, 2021, AstraZeneca released primary analysis that the vaccine demonstrated 76% efficacy against symptomatic COVID-19, 100% efficacy against severe or critical disease and hospitalizations, and 85% efficacy against symptomatic COVID-19 in people 65 years and older.
I do not understand why the government of Sri Lanka agreed to purchase Sinopharm vaccine at the rate of $15 for a jab and Sputnik V at $ 10 a dose when the country is facing severe financial hardships with foreign exchange.
Desperate Sri Lankans have been convinced by the media and some health professionals, due to the surge of the pandemic in India, there is no way to get AstraZeneca and have to look for another alternatives i.e. state minister of Pharmaceutical Production, Supply and Regulation Professor Channa Jaya Sumana announced now he was waiting to get approval from the medical experts to give Pfizer vaccine as the 2nd dose to the people those who had Oxford AstraZeneca as the first vaccine for Covid-19. But medical professionals in the UK do not advice the citizens to mix vaccines from different manufactures/pharmaceutical companies. With the higher rate of efficacy of Oxford AstraZeneca and nationwide accelerated vaccination programme, the government of the UK managed to bring Covid related death rates and spread levels to the lowest. With few restrictions people in the UK enjoy their normal life without much fear of the pandemic.
Sri Lanka has witnessed a surge of positive cases and deaths since April, mainly caused by celebrations and shopping during last April’s traditional new year festival. The island has registered more than 241,820 cases and 2,633 (at lunch time today, the 22nd) confirmed deaths.
*Rajasinghe Bandara – Operations Director-MTJ Global UK