China and Sri Lanka are set to deepen their bilateral “vaccine diplomacy” with a leading Chinese pharma company preparing to set up a manufacturing plant to make anti Covid vaccine in President Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s home district, Hambantota.
The new plant will be set up under an agreement that will allow Colombo to source 9 million Covid-19 vaccine doses from the Chinese pharma company that sets it up, Sri Lankan ambassador to China, Palitha Kohona.
Kohana said ,A deal between Sri Lanka’s State Pharmaceutical Corporation , a state owned enterprise, and China’s Sinovac Biotech is “fairly close to completion,”. The Sri Lankan envoy said “It will be set up in the dedicated pharmaceutical manufacturing zone ”.
The development comes months after India gifted 500,000 doses of the Indian-made version of the AstraZeneca vaccine to Colombo, which kicked off Sri Lanka’s vaccine roll-out in late January.
The other being from state owned Sinopharm, he Sinovac vaccine is one of the two Chinese vaccine approved by the World Health Organization under its “emergency-use listing”;
The first week of April, Sri Lanka had to temporarily suspend its vaccination programme because of the delay in the supply of AstraZeneca vaccine from India.
Kohona said it was originally India that was supposed to supply vaccines to Sri Lanka, but the plan fell through because of the Covid-19 pandemic.
The Sino Lanka vaccine arrangement was subsequently has after India stopped supplying vaccines to neighbouring countries to meet its domestic need for vaccine the devastating surge in local Covid-19 cases March onwards.
Kohona said , The SPC had approached the Chinese government to set up a vaccine plant in the zone earlier this year, given the rising demand for Covid-19 vaccines in Sri Lanka.The SPC and Sinovac then finalised the deal and the specifics of the plant are currently being worked out.