The Sri Lanka Army’s first-ever 24/7 Vaccination Centre has jabbed nearly 20,000 persons with the second dose of the Oxford AstraZeneca vaccine within the first 24 hours, Army sources said.
These vaccines were sourced from the first consignment of the AstraZeneca vaccine manufactured in Japan that arrived in Sri Lanka on Saturday.
The Government of Japan has pledged to provide approximately 1.45 million doses of AstraZeneca vaccine manufactured in Japan to Sri Lanka through the COVAX Facility to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 in Sri Lanka.
This decision has been taken in response to the request by the Government of Sri Lanka and as a part of Japan’s support to ensure equitable access to safe and effective vaccines for as many people as possible in the fight against COVID-19.
A special UL flight carrying 728,460 doses of AstraZeneca vaccines departed from Japan and landed at the Bandaranaike International Airport (BIA) after a nine-hour journey. This vaccine consignment was delayed due to the Tokyo Summer Olympics.
“Priority will be given to administer the second dose to around 500,000 individuals who have already received the first dose of the vaccine,” said Health Minister Pavithra Wanniarachchi.
Consequently, the second dose of the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine is being administered at Vihara Maha Devi Park on a 24/7 basis and at Diyatha Uyana. These two centres are run by the Army. The Forces and the Health Ministry will jointly run 77 centres in the Western Province to provide the second dose of the AstraZeneca vaccine. Over 200 normal vaccination centres will continue throughout the island to provide first and second doses of the Sinopharm vaccine.
The people who want to obtain the second dose of the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine can do so by visiting any of the 77 vaccination centres at their convenience as all centres except three will be walk-in vaccination centres. Three vaccination centres in Colombo run by the Colombo Municipal Council and the Sri Lanka Air Force (BMICH, P.D. Sirisena Grounds and Sugathadasa Stadium) will operate under an appointment based system. The public is requested to carry their NIC/passport and the vaccination card with them to any of these vaccination centres to obtain the second dose of the AstraZeneca Vaccine. Special arrangements have been made for those over 60, the infirm and disabled. The centres are expected to operate till August 7 or until the second doses run out.
The delay in procuring AstraZeneca vaccines was caused by India’s export ban on Covishield, the licensed version of the AstraZeneca vaccine manufactured in India and a supply crunch in other parts of the world. AstraZeneca forms the core of the COVAX vaccines distribution facility for developing nations. It has been recognised as one of the most effective vaccines against COVID-19, with a 100 percent record against serious illness once the two doses are given.
Meanwhile, more Sinopharm and Pfizer vaccine doses are expected to arrive at the BIA in the coming days.
(Pictures by Sulochana Gamage)