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The first batch of COVID-19 vaccines under the COVAX partnership for Sri Lanka will arrive on the island before the 28th of February, announced the Health Ministry.

Deputy Director-General of Public Health Services, Dr. Hemantha Herath speaking to News 1st said Sri Lanka will receive 264,000 doses in the first stage, while in total Sri Lanka will receive 4.5 Million doses under the COVAX partnership.

COVAX is a partnership between the World Health Organization (WHO) and two international groups – the Gavi vaccine alliance and the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI) – which aims to send vaccines to developing countries.

At least 1.3 billion COVID-19 doses will be made available to 92 lower-income economies by the end of 2021.

COVAX aims to provide two billion vaccine doses to people in 190 countries this year, ensuring at least 20 percent of populations are vaccinated.

Most importantly, it aims to send vaccines to 92 lower-income countries at no cost.

COVAX says it has collected 1.12 billion shots so far, with most deliveries expected to start in March, and a few smaller shipments due in late February.

In its interim distribution forecast published early February (PDF), it laid out its plan to distribute an initial batch of 336 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine by mid-2021.

It also aims to begin shipping 1.2 million doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine in the first quarter.