Explain COVID-19 Vaccine Target

CEYLON TODAY | Published: 2:00 AM May 15 2021

The World Bank (WB) in a report released on 9 April 2021 said that Sri Lanka plans to vaccinate 60 per cent of its population against COVID-19 by the year end. With a population of 22 million, 60 per cent works out to targeting to inoculate 13.2 million of its population by the year end. As a recipient needs two doses within the space of several weeks after being inoculated from the first dose for the total vaccination programme per person to be efficacious, that means Sri Lanka needs a totality of 26.4 million vaccines doses to inoculate 60 per cent of its population by the year end as targeted by the Government, according to the WB. 

Meanwhile, the Gavi Alliance partnered by the likes of the World Health Organisation (WHO) and includes donations led by countries like the USA, UK, Japan, India, China and Russia has promised 8.4 million doses to the country, sufficient to vaccinate 19.1 per cent (4.2 million) of Sri Lanka’s population at the rate of two doses per person. Gavi has already donated 264,000 doses to Sri Lanka, keeping up to 3.14 per cent of its promise. WHO/Gavi however hasn’t fixed any timeline for the donation of the totality of 8.4 million doses promised to Sri Lanka.

 It has however promised to donate a total of 1.44 million vaccines or 17.1 per cent of its full commitment during this month. Additionally, China, India and Russia together have already donated a total of 1.115 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines to Sri Lanka. Therefore, in total, Sri Lanka has received or has been promised to receive a totality of 9.515 million doses of vaccines with no timeframe however given for the receipt of the same. WHO/Gavi vaccine donation was the Indian vaccine. 

But with COVID-19 creating waves in India currently, it’s unlikely that Sri Lanka through WHO/Gavi or any other source/s will be able to procure the Indian vaccine for some time. Meanwhile, this 9.515 million doses promised/ received up to now, at the rate of two doses per person would be sufficient to vaccinate 4.7575 million of Sri Lanka’s population, equivalent to the coverage of 36.04 per cent of the targeted population of 13.2 million, which, in turn, is equivalent to the coverage of 60 per cent of the island’s total population, i.e. the Government’s vaccine target by the year end, according to the WB. 

This is on the presumption that the totality of the 9.515 million doses promised by the aforesaid quarters would be received and administered by Sri Lanka by the year end to some of its population. Nonetheless, even if these promises are kept, this still leaves 63.96 per cent of the targeted population numbering 8.443million, still not being vaccinated against COVID-19. The cheapest source of vaccine is the Indian vaccine. But with India having its own COVID-19 problems, the Indian vaccine may have to be left out of the equation, currently. 

Therefore, the next cheapest vaccine in the ‘market,’ if such is ‘freely’ available, discounting Russia’s and its allies’ needs, is ipso facto the Russian vaccine which is priced at US$10 per fob (free on board) per dose. At the rate of two doses per person this would cost $20 per complete dose per person, discounting freight, shipping, handling and other costs associated with such, like having the necessary cold chains rolled out islandwide to ensure the efficacy of the vaccine which has to be stored in cold/cool temperatures.

 At $20 (fob) for a complete Russian dose per person, that works out to an investment cost of $168.86 million to cover the balance 8.443 million of the targeted population, hitherto not covered under the Government’s COVID-19 vaccination programme on the assumption that the promises made by other quarters, specifically Gavi/WHO would be kept by the year end at the latest. 

In this connection, on Thursday, the WB announced the signing of a $80.5 million aid package to Sri Lanka to procure and distribute the necessary COVID-19 vaccines to inoculate part of its population. 

This still means that there is a shortfall of $88.4 million, needed, in the event the WB money is channelled only to procure the Russian vaccine and that too on an fob basis only, to buy the balance vaccines necessary to inoculate the targeted 60 per cent of the country’s population by the year end. The Government therefore is duty bound to explain to its people the methodology it plans to adopt to ensure the inoculation of 60 per cent of its population by the year end as enunciated by the WB in its aforesaid publication.

CEYLON TODAY | Published: 2:00 AM May 15 2021

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