Sri Lanka is yet to approve the emergency use of Sinopharm’s COVID-19 vaccine made in China, citing the failure of Chinese authorities to submit the requisite information needed for its approval.
The decision was announced by cabinet co-spokesperson Dr Ramesh Pathirana, who claimed that the Chinese COVID-19 vaccine was yet to complete the critical phase 3 clinical trials. He added that the complete dossier regarding the registration of China’s Sinopharm vaccine is yet to be received by the Sri Lankan authorities.
Consequently, Sri Lanka will be dependent mostly on the Serum Institute of India’s AstraZeneca vaccine to vaccinate its 14 million people. “As of now, we can proceed only with the AstraZeneca vaccine. The moment we receive full details from the Chinese COVID-19 vaccine manufacturer, we can mull over considering it,” Pathirana said.
However, Pathirana said registration of the Sinopharm vaccine might take some time as the World Health Organisation(WHO) is yet to approve its usage. The Sinopharm vaccine is still under review by the WHO and has so far not received approval from the global health organisation.
The lack of approval to the Russian made Sputnik V vaccine, Pathirana said, meant that Sri Lanka would be compelled to depend on AstraZeneca for its vaccine requirements. He further said that all the existing vaccines secured by Sri Lanka are being used as the first dose to vaccinate the public and others, including VIPs.
As per reports, Sri Lanka has now placed orders for 13 million doses of AstraZeneca vaccines, apart from the 500,000 doses that were gifted by India. For the first round of immunisation, Sri Lanka has ordered 10 million doses of AstraZeneca’s Covishield vaccine manufactured by the Serum Institute of India at the cost of 52.5 million dollars. It will also get 3 million doses directly from AstraZeneca under the UN’s COVAX program.
Global mistrust surrounding the Chinese-made COVID-19 vaccines
Sri Lanka is not the only country that has expressed its concerns over the lack of information on the Chinese made vaccines to battle the menace of coronavirus. Across the world, scepticism is soaring as countries have increasingly been apprehensive about the vaccines made in China. The distrust is largely fuelled by China’s lack of transparency in revealing complete details of the COVID-19 vaccines.
Surveys in many developing countries, from largely China-dependent Pakistan, to the poorer nations of Latin America, the notion of a vaccine developed by China has evoked scepticism among people, in spades.
China’s image took a severe drubbing following the advent of the coronavirus outbreak in late 2019 when Beijing was accused of covering up the epidemic and being reticent in revealing the virulence of the coronavirus.
Since then, Chinese Premier Xi Jinping has been coveting the option of offering a cheap alternative to the developing nations against the more expensive and anticipated shortage of western-developed coronavirus vaccine and thereby attempting to regain the trust of the countries it lost following the advent of coronavirus.
The trust among the countries had also depleted after Chinese exported masks and PPE had turned out to be faulty. This had resulted in backlash from the citizens of the respective countries who had blamed their leadership for providing them with substandard equipment to salvage their relationship with China. The apprehensions have only swelled with the lack of information and mounting suspicions surrounding the Chinese COVID-19 vaccines.
The vaccine diplomacy: India and China in a fierce battle to dominate global COVID-19 vaccination
However, the misgiving surrounding the Chinese made vaccines and the manufacturing of the more reliable as well as less-expensive Indian COVID-19 vaccines have scuttled the Chinese Premier’s elaborate plans to restore trust. With India emerging as the hub of COVID vaccine manufacturing, the battleground between the two countries has shifted from the freezing heights of Ladakh to the international arena of vaccine diplomacy.
India, the ‘pharmacy of the world’, has risen to the occasion of the war against the deadly coronavirus pandemic. India’s ambitious immunisation campaign to vaccinate 3 crore people in the first phase based entirely on the two indigenously-developed vaccines—Bharat Biotech’s Covaxin and Serum Institute of India’s Covishield has also instilled the world’s confidence on Indian made vaccines.
As a part of India’s global outreach programme and to honour PM Modi’s vow to help the world in the fight against coronavirus, New Delhi shipped off the first batches of the COVID-19 vaccines to Nepal, Bangladesh, Myanmar, Sri Lanka, Afghanistan, Maldives and Mauritius, in a bid to help them in kickstarting their vaccination process against the coronavirus. Similarly, other countries across the globe were also supplied with coronavirus shots gifted from India.
The commencement of an ambitious vaccination drive by India, coupled with its impressive handling of the coronavirus pandemic, has inspired confidence among the world leaders to opt for the ‘Made in India’ vaccines. As the new wave of coronavirus ravages several countries across the world, there is a growing demand, especially among the poorer countries, for a more affordable vaccine against COVID-19 and the leaders are turning towards India for their vaccine requirements.