ECONOMYNEXT – A study by Sri Lanka’s University of Sri Jayawardenapura (USJ) has found that 96 percent of Sri Lanka’s daily COVID-19 cases are caused by the delta variant of SARS-CoV-2.
Dr Chandima Jeewandara, director of the USJ’s Allergy Immunology and Cell Biology Unit, told reporters on Friday (10) that investigations over the past week covering all provinces of the island showed that the highly transmissible variant has spread throughout the country.
“Until last week, we were not aware of the delta variant’s spread in the country,” Jeewandara said.
“We knew almost 100 percent of cases in Colombo were delta, but we didn’t have an understanding of the situation in other districts.”
A total of 881 samples were collected for the study from around the island to carry out “variant PCR analysis”, he said.
Of these, only 618 were suitable for analysis.
According to a USJ Department of Immunology and Molecular Medicine report, 592 or 95.8 percent of the 618 samples came back positive for the delta strain, while 25 tested positive for the alpha variant.
A provincial breakdown of the results are as follows:
“This is something we expected, because many countries that detected delta in the community quickly saw it become the dominant variant within their borders,” said Jeewanadara.
The strain was first detected in Sri Lanka in a quarantine facility in April this year from a sample collected from a returnee from abroad.
In June, health officials identified the strain for the first time in the community.
Jeewandara said it is important to study the spread of the delta strain in the country in order for health authorities to take decisions regarding health protocols.
It is unclear whether this was why Sri Lanka’s ongoing COVID-19 lockdown was extended till September 21, on Friday (10).
Jeewandara said the USJ will continue to study mutations of the virus, the efficacy of vaccines against variants and antibody formation in the body.
” At the moment, all five vaccines rolled out in Sri Lanka provide adequate protection two weeks after the second dose,” he said.
“It has been six months since the administration of AstraZeneca, and three months since Sinopharm [was first rolled out]. We have obtained samples from these vaccine recipients and we will be issuing a report based on that in the near future.
“In that report, we hope to provide details about how much antibody formation is observed and the contribution of T cells and b cells to the overall immunity,” the expert said.
He further said the public should not be concerned about which variant is spreading in society and get the vaccine.
“It is not important which variant is in the society because the vaccines give the necessary protection,” he said.
“We do tests to see whether the protection is still there for certain groups of people, such as the elderly and other patients with comorbidities who can have lower antibody formation in the body.
“The deaths should be studied thoroughly. Majority of these cases have not been properly vaccinated. When there are more patients the fatality rate is also high. But that doesn’t mean the vaccine doesn’t work.”
Jeewandara also said vaccinating children should be further considered and a decision should be taken by stakeholders, taking all medical findings in the world into consideration.
A third dose, meanwhile, should not be given to everyone but people with low immunity.
“A third dose is not for everyone. It is needed for a certain group of people. As I see it is not a third dose but rather a booster dose. We give one primary dose along with two booster doses. It should be given to people who have low antibody formation in the body,” Jeewandara said.
“It is to keep the efficacy at a certain level. Others should get a third dose only upon the findings of research and studies done in the future.”
Sri Lanka had fully vaccinated 46 percent of the population against COVID-19 with two doses by August 09, putting the ongoing lockdown into good use, with 37 percent of them getting China’s Sinopharm.
On August 20 when Sri Lanka started a lockdown with deaths climbing, 5.5 million persons or 25 percent of the population had been vaccinated.
By September 09, 10.2 million or 10.2 million or 46.6 percent of the population had been vaccinated.
Of the fully vaccinated 37.9 had received Sinopharm.
About 47.89 percent had been vaccinated with one dose Sinopharm, though it becomes effective with the second dose. (Colombo/Sep10/2021)