No adverse reactions or side-effects have been reported by 5,286 Sri Lankans who on Friday received Covishield, the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine provided by India, health officials said on Saturday.
Sri Lanka on Friday launched its national coronavirus immunisation campaign by administering the first shots to frontline health workers, soldiers and security personnel, a day after India gifted 500,000 doses of Covishield vaccine to the island nation.
As many as 5,286 people were administered the jabs at nine hospitals, including two military hospitals, on the first day.
No adverse reactions or side-effects have so far been reported from anywhere, the health officials said.
The Oxford-Astrazeneca’s Covishield vaccine, manufactured by Serum Institute of India, was approved for emergency use by the Sri Lankan government.
Health Minister Pavithra Wanniarachchi, who is in the ICU after being tested positive for Covid-19, issued a statement on Saturday from her hospital bed, thanking Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his government for making the vaccine available free to Sri Lanka.
The vaccination drive was formally launched at the National Institute of Infectious Diseases. State Minister of Primary Health Services, Pandemics, Covid Prevention Sudarshini Fernandopulle, High Commissioner of India Gopal Baglay and various other dignitaries attended the event.
The country has planned to first vaccinate about 150,000 health personnel, and 120,000 tri-forces, police and other security personnel who are in the frontline fighting against the virus.
The gift of 500,000 doses of Covishield vaccine to Sri Lanka is in line with India’s continued support to the island country in fighting the Covid pandemic. Four consignments of medical supplies weighing around 25 tonnes were donated by India, which also organised online experience-sharing programmes for Sri Lankan medical professionals.
The two nations have also put up a joint front in the Covid-19 battle with India and Sri Lanka being the largest contributors to the Covid-19 Emergency Fund for SAARC. Prime Minister Modi had complimented Sri Lanka’s leadership on containing the pandemic.
On Thursday, Lankan President Gotabaya Rajapaksa thanked India for its generosity after he received 500,000 doses of the Covishield vaccine. The president was personally present at the airport to receive the vaccines.
The Sri Lankan health authorities said the immunisation programme is ongoing in nine hospitals across the country.
Sri Lanka has recorded over 300 deaths so far due to Covid-19.
Sri Lanka witnessed a fresh outbreak of the disease in October last year when two clusters - one centered on a garment factory and the other on the main fish market - emerged in Colombo and its suburbs.
UN chief Antonio Guterres has applauded India for supplying Covid-19 doses to nations around the world to combat the catastrophic global health crisis, saying India's vaccine production capacity is one of the best assets the world has today.
India has sent more than 6 million Covid-19 doses to nine countries in Phase-I under its initiative termed “Vaccine Maitri”. Contractual supplies to various countries are also being undertaken in a phased manner and New Delhi has said it will gradually supply to the COVAX facility of the World Health Organization. COVAX is the global initiative to ensure rapid and equitable access to Covid-19 vaccines.