COLOMBO: Sri Lanka on Monday received the first batch 26,000 doses of Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine, becoming the first South Asian country to get the US-made jab.
The consignment was part of the 800,000 COVID-19 jabs to be delivered to the island nation in the next few weeks.
Health officials said that the 26,000 doses of the COVID-19 vaccine was the start of the 5 million Pfizer jabs expected by year end.
"Great news this morning as #SriLanka becomes the first country in South Asia to purchase a contingent of #Pfizer vaccines. I am proud of the work that is being done by my government to ensure vaccines for all Sri Lankans. Vaccination continues throughout the country," President Gotabaya Rajapaksa tweeted.
Great news this morning as #SriLanka becomes the first country in South Asia to purchase a contingent of #Pfizer vaccines. I am proud of the work that is being done by my government to ensure vaccines for all Sri Lankans. Vaccination continues throughout the country— Gotabaya Rajapaksa (@GotabayaR) July 5, 2021
A total of five million vaccines financed through the World Bank's Sri Lanka COVID-19 Emergency Response and Health System Preparedness Project will be supplied by December 2021, the World Bank said in its statement.
"The delivery of this first batch of vaccines reflects the joint work of the government of Sri Lanka and its partners to ensure fair access to safe and effective vaccines for Sri Lankans," Faris H. Hadad-Zervos, World Bank Country Director for Maldives, Nepal, and Sri Lanka said in a statement.
"More vaccines are under review and will arrive by year's end," the statement said.
The global financial body is giving Sri Lanka USD 298.07 million dollars through its COVID-19 Emergency Response and Health System Preparedness Project, including an additional 80.5 million for vaccines.
The vaccines are procured through the procedure established in the loan agreement signed with Sri Lanka in May 2021, the statement said.
"Patient treatment capacity will be improved through the planned district-level oxygen generating plants, ensuring oxygen supplies are available to patients," the agency said.
"New isolation units and ICU/High Dependency Unit facilities have been set up in secondary and tertiary hospitals. World Bank funds have also helped provide essential supplies and services to 70 COVID-19 treatment centers," it said.
Sri Lanka has so far used AstraZeneca manufactured by the Serum Institute of India, Chinese Sinopharm and Russian Sputnik V in the country's fight against the COVID-19 pandemic.
By 10 am on Monday, some 2.9 million of the island's 20 million population had received their first jabs with 1.23 million receiving both the doses.
According to Johns Hopkins University data, the country has reported 265,630 COVID-19 cases and 3,236 deaths.