Sri Lanka has received the first shipment of the COVID-19 vaccines through the international COVAX facility ran by the World Health Organization (WHO), the UN body said on Sunday.
"Arrival of the first batch of COVID-19 vaccines from the COVAX Facility in Sri Lanka marks another step in our goal to ensure equitable and fair distribution of COVID-19 vaccines globally," WHO said in a statement.
The first delivery to the South Asian island country included 264,000 doses of the Astra Zeneca/Oxford vaccine produced by the Serum Institute of India. By May, Sri Lanka is expected to receive 1,440,000 doses.
"The additional doses to cover 20% of Sri Lanka's population will arrive in the second half of 2021. All these doses are donor-funded and provided at no cost to Sri Lanka," WHO added.
Sri Lanka rolled out its mass vaccination campaign in January after receiving the first 500,000 doses of the Covieshield vaccine — India's version of the AstraZeneca/Oxford University vaccine — from New Delhi. The vaccines produced by Pfizer, Moderna, Janssen and AstraZeneca have also been approved by the island nation's authorities. Earlier this week, Sri Lanka, as well, became the 43rd country to approve Russia's Sputnik V vaccine against COVID-19.
To date, the country has confirmed more than 85,000 cases of the virus, including 494 fatalities.
Elsewhere in the world, Ethiopia has too received the first COVAX batch of the AstraZeneca/Oxford vaccine.
"The first batch of #COVID19 vaccines, 2.2 million doses of AstraZeneca, have arrived to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia this morning, through the COVAX facility, a global partnership for equitable and timely access to COVID19 vaccines," Ethiopian Health Minister Lia Tadesse wrote on Twitter.
Health workers and high-risk groups will be the first to be vaccinated in the East African country.
Ethiopia has so far confirmed 165,029 COVID-19 cases and 2,420 related fatalities.
COVAX aims to ship close to 2 billion doses of vaccines globally by the end of 2021. It has recently started a roll-out of Pfizer/BioNTech and AstraZeneca/Oxford vaccines and is looking to add more to its portfolio.