Maldives pauses Covishield vaccinations temporarily

Covishield vaccine developed by Astrazeneca and Oxford University. (Sun Photo/Fayaz Moosa)

The Health Protection Agency (HPA) has announced that the administration of the second dose of the Covishield vaccine (Astrazeneca-Oxford University vaccine) in the capital Male' City Area would be halted temporarily starting from today.

HPA announced the move but did not specify why but only that the vaccination for the second dose would be halted temporarily. 

A date for the recommencement of the vaccination would be announced later on, according to the HPA. 

The news comes after the government admitted last night that the vaccine stock in the nation was low. The news comes after a massive number of people queueing up outside vaccine centers, often hours before the vaccine centers open were observed. 

Individuals are only eligible for the second dose eight weeks after the first dose of the vaccine. 

The first dose of the Covishield vaccine was provided by India which supplied 200,000 doses. The COVAX facility also provided 12,000 doses of the same vaccine.

The second dose of the vaccine was administered from 100,000 doses received under an agreement for the purchase of 300,000 doses of the vaccine by the Maldivian government with the Serum Institute of India, the manufacturers of the vaccine. Under the agreement, 200,000 doses are yet to be delivered. HPA has not commented officially on when the remaining doses would be received as India halts export of the vaccine as the domestic situation in the nation worsens.

The government also has an agreement with Astrazeneca in Singapore for the supply of 700,000 doses of the vaccine. The vaccine purchased by the government would only be received in June, according to the Health Ministry of the Maldives. 

So far, 297,639 people have received the first dose of the vaccine, which is around 67 percent of the eligible population. The second dose had been completed by 108,494 people. This is 24.5 percent of the eligible population. 

Other than the Covishield vaccine, the Pfizer vaccine used in special circumstances, as well as the Sinopharm vaccine is also being administered in the Maldives.