Colombo, June 2 (Daily Mirror) – President Gotabaya Rajapaksa has instructed his principal advisor Lalith Weeratunga to expedite the search for the Astrazeneca vaccines as 600,000 people await their second jabs.
As time is soon running out, the President has instructed Weeratunga to secure the stocks as soon as possible and to purchase the doses at any price, the Daily Mirror learns.
Inquiries have been made by Sri Lanka to several countries holding the stocks and even private companies who have extra stocks, which they had purchased for their employees.
However, when the State Pharmaceuticals Corporation (SPC) had inquired from Astrazeneca if they could purchase from these third parties, Astrazeneca had replied saying these stocks could be counterfeit and should be reported to the authorities immediately.
In desperation to get this stock of 600,000 doses, Sri Lankan authorities said it is even willing to charter a flight to fly down these vaccines if the stocks can be successfully purchased by any authorised source or country.
Requests have also been made to the Serum Institute of India who had initially promised the stocks but later had to halt supplies due to rising local demand and a temporary halt on vaccine imports imposed by the Indian government.
A senior official said the reason the authorities had administered all the 1 million doses of Astrazeneca doses to the public was because Serum Institute had assured the SPC of continuous supplies which would ensure the smooth administration of the second jabs, but later it did not fulfil its commitment.
The cabinet of ministers have now been continuously discussing the matter when cabinet convenes with the President and Prime Minister every week, but so far, there has been no positive response in securing the doses.
Desperate citizens who received the first doses of the Astrazeneca doses have been lining up outside hospitals and even temples in recent days, as messages spread on Whatsapp groups of the possibility of getting the jabs.
Still, the government is to issue any official statement on what the alternate course would be if the stocks do not arrive in the country.
Health officials have extended the time frame between the first and second doses to 16 weeks, but now say that this can be extended further. (Jamila Husain)