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13,5 million doses of AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine ordered by Sri Lanka

In addition to the 500,000 doses donated by India, Sri Lanka has ordered 13.5 million Oxford AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccines, and the country does not use Chinese vaccines in the second phase of immunization, a government spokesman said on Tuesday.

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

Pathirana said, "Chinese vaccines have not submitted papers related to phase three trials."

The government ordered 10 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine from the Serum Institute of India for the first round of vaccinations, at a cost of USD 52.5 million, and a further 3.5 million doses directly from the AstraZeneca Institute of the United Kingdom under the COVAX scheme, the spokesman said.

India donated 500,000 doses of the same vaccine that kicked off the vaccine rollout in late January in Sri Lanka.

Last month, Sri Lankan President Gotabaya Rajapaksa thanked India for its generosity after receiving 500,000 doses of the country's donated Covishield vaccine under the 'Neighbourhood First" scheme.

Pathirana said, adding that while initially it was believed that the booster jab should be given after four weeks, the government will be led by the best medical advice on when the second dose should be given.

Health experts have said in recent weeks that delaying the second dose by three months might increase the vaccine's efficacy.

India announced last month that it would send Covid-19 vaccines to Sri Lanka and seven other nations, including Bhutan, Maldives, Bangladesh, Nepal, Myanmar, Seychelles, Afghanistan, and Mauritius, under grant assistance.

India is one of the world's largest drug manufacturers and has already been approached by a growing number of countries to procure coronavirus vaccines.

So far, Sri Lanka has reported more than 80,500 cases of coronavirus, with 450 deaths.

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