No intention of getting more vaccine from China: Minister Naseem

Minister of Health Ahmed Naseem | Photo: PSM News

Male’, Maldives —The Health Minister of Maldives, Ahmed Naseem has stated that the government does not intend to procure more Covid-19 vaccine from China yet.

While giving an interview to the Times of India on Monday, Minister Naseem stated that China had donated 200,000 doses of Sinopharm Covid-19 vaccine to the Maldives so far and that the island nation is no longer looking forward on signing any commercial contract with China to procure vaccine yet. While Maldives is currently vaccinating with Sinopharm it is unclear whether there are enough vaccines to cover both doses.

While China has signed an agreement with Bangladesh for 15 million doses, the country has planned to donate a million doses of Sinopharm vaccine to Nepal this week.

The island nation has vaccinated a total of 309,815 people with the first dose and 166,490 with the second dose.

Maldives currently requires the Covishield or AstraZeneca vaccine as over 310,000 people in Maldives have administered the first dose of Covishield vaccine.

However, as India is unable to supply the remaining 100,000 doses of Covid-19 vaccine that they had signed an agreement for due to the decision to temporarily ban vaccine due to the surge in the number of cases in India and decision by India to stop vaccine export. Minister Naseem stated that Maldives is indeed facing a problem as the time to administer the second dose comes closer.

Yes, as some of the vaccines have already surpassed the 12th week after getting the first dose of Covishield vaccine.

Minister Naseem

Minister Naseem informed that the Maldives has vaccinated 228,653 people for the first dose of Covishield out of which only 117,342 people have been so far vaccinated with the second dose. The remaining 109,737 people are yet to receive the second dose of Covishield vaccine.

As a temporary solution, Minister Naseem stated that Maldives has ordered AstraZeneca vaccine to meet the shortfall they are currently facing.

Maldives signed an agreement to procure 700,000 doses of COVID-19 vaccine developed by AstraZeneca and Oxford University in the first week of January 2021 before the arrival of other vaccines in the country. Health Minister Naseem states that Maldives will receive the 700,000 doses of Covid-19 vaccine from AstraZeneca Singapore Pte Ltd starting from June 2021.

This vaccine can be interchangeable with Covishield vaccine and can be given as second dose to those who received Covishield as first dose.

Minister Naseem

However, the shortage of vaccine in Maldives is currently becoming a great problem as there are approximately 60,000 people for whom even the extended 12 week gap between the first and second dose is about to elapse.

So far, Maldives has administered 70% of its eligible population with the first dose of Covid-19 vaccine. This is about 439,727 people. From this, over 37% people have been fully vaccinated. There are still 129,912 people not vaccinated at all, which would require 259,824 doses of vaccine.

Maldives has purchased 300,000 doses of Covishield vaccine Serum Institute of India (SII) and received the first batch of 100,000 doses from SII, India. Covishield is mass produced by the Serum Institute of India using the Oxford-Astrazeneca license.

The country received 200,000 doses of Covishield and additional 200,000 doses of Sinopharm Covid-19 vaccine from China as donations. Additional 18,000 doses of Sinopharm vaccine was donated by anonymous benefactors. Maldives received further 5,850 doses of Pfizer vaccine and 12,000 doses of Covishield through the WHO COVAX facility.

Maldives has authorized three vaccines for emergency use; Covishield, Sinopharm Covid-19 vaccine and Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine.

The Health Minister also says the island nation is on track to receive the Sputnik vaccine from Russia and plans are underway to procure required doses of Pfizer vaccine to inoculate the 12,000 individuals aged 16 to 18.