Today, over 728,000 doses of the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccines have been delivered to Sri Lanka out of a total contribution of over 1.4 million doses provided by the Government of Japan through the COVAX’s dose sharing mechanism. This is the third COVAX allocation to Sri Lanka, all being entirely donor-funded, with no cost to the country.

The first delivery of COVID-19 vaccines from the COVAX Facility was 264,000 doses of AstraZeneca in March, followed by 1.5 million Moderna vaccines donated by the US earlier this month.

Sri Lanka receives a large consignment of AstraZeneca vaccines from Japan via the COVAX Facility
Sri Lanka receives a large consignment of AstraZeneca vaccines from Japan via the COVAX Facility

The Government of Japan’s donation is an important response to calls for dose-sharing through the COVAX Facility as an immediate measure to address shortages in vaccine supply. COVAX, the vaccine initiative, is the only global mechanism that distributes vaccines rapidly and equitably with the mission to help end the acute phase of the pandemic as quickly as possible.  COVAX is co-led by the World Health Organization (WHO); GAVI, the Vaccine Alliance; and, the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI) with UNICEF leading on logistics. COVAX receives important bilateral contributions from donors who have been consistent supporters of the UN more broadly; and, the Facility also has important alliances with member countries, multilateral institutions, foundations, the World Bank, Asian Development Bank, civil society organizations, manufacturers, and other stakeholders.

The AstraZeneca vaccines are a significant contribution to Sri Lanka’s vaccination drive. The vaccine roll-out combined with public health and social measures reflects the Government of Sri Lanka’s commitment to slow down the pandemic and put the country on track for a robust recovery.

The Minister of Health, Hon. Pavithra Wanniarachchi, emphasized the key role the COVAX Facility and donors play in Sri Lanka’s fight against COVID-19. “The arrival of this batch of vaccines is the result of continuous advocacy over the past several months by the Government of Sri Lanka, WHO, UNICEF, and the United Nations. And of course, it would not be possible without substantial support from the Government of Japan, who recognized that it is in every country’s best interest to work together to accelerate vaccination, because no country is safe until every country is safe.”

The Ambassador of Japan to Sri Lanka, Sugiyama Akira, noted that “as a long-standing friend of Sri Lanka, it is our great honour to provide through COVAX approximately 1.45 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine manufactured in Japan to further bolster the vaccination programme in Sri Lanka to ensure equitable access to vaccines for all people in need across the country.  Japan has also provided USD 16.2 million to Sri Lanka to assist its combat against COVID-19, including improving its cold chain system. Globally, Japan has pledged USD 1 billion to the COVAX facility to accelerate vaccination in developing countries. Japan will continue to stand in solidarity with Sri Lanka in our fight against this global pandemic.”

“Vaccination, alongside other preventive measures against COVID-19 is key in the fight against the pandemic. In line with the National Vaccine Deployment Plan, these vaccines will help reach the most vulnerable and key frontline workers”, said UNICEF Sri Lanka Representative a.i, Emma Brigham. “These vaccines from Japan to Sri Lanka demonstrate the true spirit of the collective global responsibility required to subdue the pandemic.”

The WHO Representative to Sri Lanka, Dr Alaka Singh, stated that “Japan’s donation is much appreciated as an exemplary demonstration of global solidarity for the pandemic response. The contribution is critical for fully vaccinating those who have already received the first dose of AstraZeneca. This would be an important milestone for H.E. President Rajapaksa’s laudable vaccination plan and puts Sri Lanka on track to lead on WHO’s call to each country to vaccinate 40% of their population by year end.  WHO recognizes this as one of the key factors against transmission, along with critical reinforcement from public health and social measures.

UN Resident Coordinator in Sri Lanka, Hanaa Singer-Hamdy, noted that, “with these vaccines, the COVAX Facility has provided Sri Lanka with more than 3.2 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines. These vaccines are from both donors earmarking allocations for Sri Lanka and the central allocation of doses provided to COVAX. My thanks to our colleagues from WHO and UNICEF Sri Lanka who have worked tirelessly in supporting the Government to secure these vaccines. The UN in Sri Lanka is working closely with the Ministry of Health, in line with the National Deployment Plan, to ensure vaccines reach the most vulnerable within this evolving pandemic.”