Sri Lanka begins inoculating citizens with second dose of AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine

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Colombo, Apr 28 (PTI) Sri Lanka on Wednesday began administering the second dose of the Oxford–AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine after assurances from India's Serum Institute that it would send more consignments of the vaccine soon.

Frontline workers were the first ones to receive the second dose of the vaccine, said State Minister of Primary Health Care, Epidemics and COVID Disease Control Sudarshani Fernandopulle.

The inoculation of the second jab started at the Army Hospital here with military personnel and frontline health workers being the first ones to be administered the vaccine, officials said.

Sri Lanka had started its COVID-19 vaccination programme in late January, after receiving 500,000 doses of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine from India as a 'gift'.

However, the inoculation programme was affected as the AstraZeneca vaccine manufacturer, Serum Institute of India, suspended vaccine supply, due to a spike in the number of coronavirus cases in India.

Following recent assurances by the Serum Institute of India that more vaccine doses will be sent soon, the Sri Lankan government has decided to commence the vaccination programme, the Colombo Gazette newspaper reported.

Fernandopulle, on Wednesday, said that from the initial consignment of vaccines that were received from India, 300,000 doses remained in the government's possession.

Meanwhile, Director of Allergy, Immunity and Cell Biology at Sri Jayewardenepura University, Chandima Jeewandara, has said that the B.1.1.7 variant of the coronavirus, which was first detected in the UK, is causing the current wave of COVID-19 infections in the country.

Sri Lanka on Tuesday reported 1,111 COVID-19 cases, the highest number in a day since the coronavirus was first detected in the country in March 2020.

Health officials have warned of a potential surge to follow the traditional new year festival in mid-April.

General Shavendra Silva, who heads the COVID-19 prevention operation in the country, said the people must be prepared with stocks of essential items as more areas could come under lockdown.

Silva said it was important for the public to be prepared. 'We do not need to put fear into people or try to hide the situation. It is important that we be prepared for any eventuality,” Silva said.

So far, the coronavirus has claimed 655 lives, along with 103,487 confirmed cases, in Sri Lanka, according to Johns Hopkins University. PTI CORR IND AKJ IND