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Sri Lanka goes with Indian Covishield, dumps Chinese Sinopharm

India sprints ahead of China in its global vaccine programme with actual deliveries (IANS)

India sent a second lot of 500,000 Covishield vaccines to Sri Lanka this Thursday. With this consignment, Sri Lanka has received a total of one million vaccines from India, the earlier 500,000 being a gift to Colombo.

With doubts still swirling around the efficacy of China's Sinopharm vaccines, Sri Lanka has decided to put all its eggs in the Indian basket.

Cabinet co-spokesman, Dr Ramesh Pathirana, told Sri Lankan media this week that Chinese vaccine Sinopharm has not yet completed its phase-3 trials. Dr Pathirana added that China has not shared complete paperwork about the Chinese vaccine.

Sri Lankan newspaper Daily Mirror quoted Dr Pathirana as saying: "For the time being, we need to go with the AstraZeneca vaccine. The moment we receive full documentation from the Chinese manufacturer we can consider registering it."

What is significant is that Sri Lanka has placed an order of 13.5 million Covishield vaccines with the Serum Institute of India (SII) to kickstart its second phase of vaccinations. Its first phase of vaccinations had taken off with India's gift of 500,000 in late January.

China is losing credibility with many countries, including allies.

In a detailed analysis of the global vaccine coverage, Bloomberg Quint finds out that India has neatly sprinted ahead of China It says: "So far, New Delhi has managed to ship nearly 6.8 million free vaccines around the world. China has pledged around 3.9 million, …some of which have yet to arrive."

Sri Lanka has been a prey to China's hollow promises over recieving vaccines.

Once Indian vaccines reached Colombo, Beijing announced free vaccines for Sri Lanka. News agency Xinhua quoted the Chinese embassy in Colombo on January 27: "China will donate three lakh Covid-19 vaccine doses to Sri Lanka to jointly fight the Covid-19 pandemic."

A month later the Chinese vaccines are nowhere to be seen in the island nation – a close ally of China. 

It is a story Myanmar is familiar with. As Nikkei Asia reports, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi visited Naypyitaw in mid-January on the first leg of his South-East Asian nation tour. Yet again, Wang promised three lakh free vaccines for Myanmar. Six weeks later, the vaccines are yet to arrive in Myanmar. Meanwhile Naypyitaw signed a contract with India and has lifted millions of vaccines for its citizens.

Like Sri Lanka, Myanmar too is waiting for Chinese vaccines.

Even as Chinese leaders were busy making announcements, India was helping kickstart the vaccination campaigns of almost all South Asian nations barring Pakistan. Delhi not only provided the initial vaccines as a grant but even organised training and capacity building programmes for the medical staff of scores of countries.

Indian vaccines have already touched down in at least 60 countries. These range from geographies as diverse as Brazil to Canada, Barbados to Bangladesh and Mongolia to Maldives. On the other hand, there are nations chasing an opaque China to release vital information about the efficacy of its vaccines.