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Sri Lanka approves Pfizer COVID vaccine for emergency use

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By Waruna Karunatilake

COLOMBO, May 8 (Reuters) - Sri Lanka on Saturday approved Pfizer's COVID-19 vaccine for emergency use in Sri Lanka, as the island nation battles a third wave of the virus, while suffering a restricted supply of vaccines from neighboring India.

Dr. Sudharshani Fernandopulle, the minister overseeing the fight against the epidemic, said in a statement the government would order 5 million doses of the Pfizer vaccine.

Sri Lanka is seeking to secure other vaccines as the Serum Institute of India, the world's largest vaccine manufacturer, has suspended the delivery of AstraZeneca's Covishield vaccine due to spiraling coronavirus infections in India.

Sri Lanka is the first country in South Asia to approve the Pfizer vaccine. It has also approved Russia's Sputnik and China's Sinopharm vaccines for emergency use.

The island nation reported 1,914 new cases and 19 deaths in the past 24 hours, according to federal health data, and its total number of active cases is higher than any point since the pandemic began. Infections surged after crowded celebrations for traditional New Year last month.

(Reporting by Waruna Karunatilake in Colombo Writing by Alasdair Pal)