Govt. seeks expert advice to dispose $40 million worth COVID vaccines

COLOMBO – Sri Lanka is looking for expert opinions and feedback on the disposal of expired COVID-19 vaccines worth US$ 40 million, after the island nation’s plans to donate them for Myanmar failed, health officials said.

The Health Ministry has extended the expiry date of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccines twice from end July 2022 on the recommendation of World Health Organization (WHO). However, six million vaccine doses will expire on December 31, government officials have said.

President Ranil Wickremesinghe’s government in October 2022 said it was going to donate six million Pfizer vaccines valued at over $40 million to Myanmar, after a majority of Sri Lankans refused to obtain a fourth dose.

“The expired vaccines are still in Sri Lanka. We are looking to get expert opinions on how to dispose the vaccines,” said Janaka Chandragupta, Secretary to the Ministry of Health.

Hemantha Herath, Director General, Ministry of Health, said Sri Lanka has a stockpile of Chinese-manufactured Sinopharm vaccine, which may be administered as the third or the fourth doses in the future, if required.

“Donations weren’t made as the vaccines were close to expiry date and were not up for donation state,” Herath said.

Only 202,571 people have obtained the fourth dose in Sri Lanka, though more than 17.1 million people received the first dose. Sri Lanka faced a delay in importing the vaccines, but later ordered more than the required stock as booster doses.

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