Right to Information Transparency and corruption in public service

Did we pay for the first 500,000 doses of the Covid-19 vaccine received from India!?

K. Prasanna

Vaccination programmes for the general public have been intensified as the vaccine is considered to be the only solution to protect against the spread of the Covid-19 pandemic around the world. Vaccine rollout in Sri Lanka was launched on 29th January 2021. Vaccines such as Oxford AstraZeneca from India, Sinopharm from China, Sputnik-V from Russia, and Pfizer BioNTech from the United States are currently being administered in Sri Lanka. Steps have also been taken to manufacture the Chinese Sinovac vaccine in Sri Lanka and import the Moderna vaccine from the United States.

However, it costs a lot of money to import these vaccines. Due to the supply shortage and high demand for vaccines, vaccines have to be procured at prices determined by the manufacturers.

  

In this context, the State Pharmaceutical Corporation of Sri Lanka (SM/PSRP/02/33/2021) released information regarding vaccines imported into Sri Lanka and their prices, four months after a request of information was made in February to the Ministry of Production, Supply, and Regulation of Pharmaceuticals under the Right to Information Act.

Although a large number of vaccines are currently being imported into the country, the State Pharmaceutical Corporation of Sri Lanka only provided us with information for the time before March. According to that information, about 515,000 doses of vaccines have been imported to Sri Lanka up to March. Of this, 500,000 Covishield vaccines were imported from India, and 15,000 Sputnik-V vaccines were imported from Russia.

The price of a 10-dose vial of the Indian Covishield vaccine is USD 51.5 or LKR 10,287.38. Hence, one dose of the vaccine was imported for USD 5.15 or LKR 1,028.74. Also, the price of a 5-dose vial of the Russian Sputnik-V vaccine is USD 49.80 or LKR 9,947.51. Therefore the price of one dose of the vaccine is USD 9.96 or LKR 1,989.50. 

Meanwhile, the State Pharmaceutical Corporation of Sri Lanka says that it has spent LKR 515,346,540.50 on importing the Covishield vaccine, including the transportation costs. However, it was reported that the Covishield vaccine was a donation from India to Sri Lanka under the COVAX facility. COVAX is a global initiative for vaccination and disease prevention. It is a coalition for epidemic preparedness innovations launched in association with the World Health Organization (WHO).

(https://www.thehindubusinessline.com/news/indias-gift-of-5-lakh-doses-of-covishield-vaccines-to-reach-sri-lanka-on-thursday/article3)

Its purpose is to accelerate the growth and production of the Covid-19 vaccine and to ensure fair and equitable access to every country in the world. Based on this, the President of Sri Lanka received the Covishield vaccine doses as a donation from the Indian High Commissioner to Sri Lanka. However, the State Pharmaceutical Corporation of Sri Lanka states that it has spent LKR 515,346,540.50 on those vaccine doses.

Accordingly, the government has spent LKR 514,370,000 on the purchase of the Covishield vaccine doses alone and has spent LKR 976,540.50 on transportation costs.

Meanwhile, it was reported that the government had spent LKR 32,030,764.31, including the transport costs, to import the first stock of Sputnik-V vaccines donated by Russia.

Accordingly, the government has spent LKR 29,842,500 on the purchase of the Sputnik-V vaccine doses alone and LKR 2,188,264.31 as transportation costs. 

Meanwhile, it was reported that the Sinopharm vaccine imported from China was also bought at a higher price. It was reported that Sri Lanka bought one dose of the vaccine for USD 15 while Bangladesh bought one dose for USD 10. Following the controversy, an agreement was reached to keep the price of the Sinovac vaccine to be manufactured in Sri Lanka a secret.

In addition, the Pharmaceutical Distribution Division of the State Pharmaceutical Corporation has announced that Sri Lanka will import another 18,000,000 doses of the Covishield vaccine, 13,000,000 doses of the Sputnik-V vaccine, and 5,000,580 doses of the Pfizer BioNTech vaccine.

Despite the current economic crisis in the country, there is a need to purchase the required vaccines for all citizens of Sri Lanka. At the same time, the public has a right to know about vaccines and their cost. The government should also clarify whether there is a practice of paying for donated vaccines.

Information on Covid-19 vaccines imported to Sri Lanka

Source: State Pharmaceutical Corporation

Name of the vaccineCountry of importationNumber of doses administeredPrice of the vaccineCost for the vaccine (LKR)Transportation costs (LKR)Total (LKR)
CovishieldIndia    500,00010-dose vial  LKR 10,287.38   (USD 51.5) 
Price of one dose LKR 1,028.74       (USD 5.15)
514,370,000.00976,540.50.00515,346,540.50
Sputnik-VRussia    15,0005-dose vial LKR 9,947.51       (USD 49.80) 
Price of one dose LKR1,989.50        (USD 9.96)
29,842,500.002,188,264.31.0032,030,764.31
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The views and opinions expressed in this publication are those of the authors. They do not purport to reflect the opinions or views of the Sri Lanka Press Institute.

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