Sri Lanka begins inoculating Chinese expats with Sinopharm vaccine

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Colombo, Apr 5 (PTI) The Sri Lankan health authorities on Monday began inoculating Chinese nationals living in the country against the coronavirus using a Chinese vaccine.

'This was done at four different places today in Colombo, Kandy, Hambantota and Puttalam,' said Chief Epidemiologist to the government Sudath Samaraweera.

He said 600,000 doses of the Chinese vaccine Sinopharm were received and they would be used to inoculate the Chinese workers currently in the island nation.

The officials of Colombo Municipal Council said around 3,000 Chinese nationals had registered for the vaccine, most of them workers in the construction sector.

China has invested heavily in Sri Lanka under its Belt and Road Initiative, namely the Port City of Colombo and the Port of Hambantota projects.

Meanwhile, Opposition party leaders on Monday charged that four members of National medicines Regulatory Authority (NMRA), including its chairman, had been removed as they did not approve the Chinese Sinopharm vaccine, citing the World Health Organisation's pending approval for emergency use.

Sri Lanka had rolled out its COVID-19 vaccination with the receipt of 500,000 doses of a vaccination donation from the Indian government.

The Oxford AstraZeneca Vaccine from India's Serum Institute has been administered to 924,479 people of the 21 million population.

However the government said the second jab would be delayed as the Serum Institute was unable to provide the ordered consignment from Sri Lanka.

Sri Lanka is set to import the Russian Sputnik vaccine soon, officials said.

The coronavirus has killed 581 people, along with 93,436 confirmed cases, in the country so far. PTI CORR IND