Sri Lanka Gets First Batch of World Bank-financed COVID-19 Vaccines

A consignment of Pfizer vaccines today arrived in Colombo, the first batch of 800,000 doses to be delivered in the next few weeks. 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 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,” said Faris H. Hadad-Zervos, World Bank Country Director for Maldives, Nepal, and Sri Lanka. “More vaccines are under review and will arrive by year’s end.”

Since the first COVID-19 case was confirmed in early 2020, Sri Lanka has successfully managed the pandemic, but the country now faces a third wave of coronavirus. World Bank support, which first prioritized health emergency needs, will also help Sri Lanka’s public healthcare withstand future shocks.

So far, the Bank’s support has helped strengthen Sri Lanka’s testing capacity, such as establishing molecular biology laboratories and providing essential laboratory and biomedical equipment. Patient treatment capacity will be improved through the planned district-level oxygen generating plants, ensuring oxygen supplies are available to patients. 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.

“The pandemic has undermined some of Sri Lanka’s impressive human capital gains achieved through many years of investment,” said Lynne D. Sherburne-Benz, Regional Director for Human Development, South Asia Region. “We are happy to support Sri Lanka as it endeavors to regain the losses to health, education and social protection and secure a better future for all Sri Lankans.”

The vaccines were procured through the procedure established in the loan agreement signed with the Government of Sri Lanka in May 2021, as well as the two criteria for the World Bank vaccine approval. The World Bank funding can be provided for vaccines that received regular or emergency license or authorization from at least one of the Stringent Regulatory Authorities identified by the World Health Organization for vaccines procured and/or supplied under the COVAX facility, and vaccines that received WHO prequalification or WHO emergency use listing.

The Sri Lanka COVID-19 Emergency Response and Health System Preparedness Project with a total of $298.07 million, including additional $80.5 million for vaccine support, has contributed to Sri Lanka’s pandemic management and prevention efforts. Expected project results include meeting short term emergency needs, including cash transfers for economically vulnerable populations, as well as long term strengthening of health systems for pandemic preparedness.