An Echelon Media Company
Thursday May 6th, 2021

Government’s vaccination policy is confused but getting the jab was smooth

FRONTLINE: A nurse in Sri Lanka getting ready to vaccinate fellow health workers.

ECONOMYNEXT – On Saturday, February 20, I was vaccinated against Covid 19 and if you think I am some celebrity queue-jumper, perish the thought, all of us denizens of our Grama Sevaka Division were invited and the brave were jabbed and got the Indian version of the Oxford AstraZeneca vaccine.

Many people have asked me “how did that happen? How did you apply for a vaccine,” they ask.

What happened was this simple. An indistinct and muffled announcement made by a vehicle that traversed the main road was heard on Friday.

As it always happens this muffled message was transmitted down our little lane by word of mouth, and such transmissions, as all students of communications learn, gets further garbled.

The message we got was that “everyone over 30” was going to be vaccinated. Now that was against what the government had announced just a day or two before that.

The Acting Minister of Health Prof Channa Jayasumana had told reporters that he had been advised that vaccinating everyone between 30 and 60 was the best way to prevent the spread of the virus as daily infection rates climbed towards the one thousand mark.

Hearing that, I told our neighbours that the government’s priority list included the “workforce” which is those between 30 and 60.

Then my wife called the Medical officer of Health and was told that everyone over 30 would be vaccinated.

There was also a possibility that the over-60s with co-morbidities, underlying conditions such as Diabetes and High Blood Pressure, will get the jab because the government wanted to reduce the number of fatalities.

So we decided to take the chance and armed with a prescription from my physician stating that I have Hypertension and Diabetes joined the line at the Medical Officer of Health at Baddegana.

There were several hundred people in line when we got there around 8:15 am and the vaccinations began at 9:30.

The usual Sri Lankan queue-jumpers, general confusion and an ingrained inability to listen to instructions on the part of a small section of the people aside, the process went off pretty smoothly.

The Nurses and Doctors administering the vaccine were very professional, kind and efficient. In all, it was a pleasant experience and we did not feel pressured or scared.

And yes everyone over 30 was vaccinated and we over sixties were not asked for proof of comorbidities.

The most unfortunate thing we saw was that many of our neighbours did not go to get the vaccine.

The over-sixties did not go because the Acting Minister had said they will not be vaccinated.

Others shunned the jab because of all types of misinformation that has been spread, saying that getting the vaccine will make you sick.

That in part is true, there is some pain in the arm which received the injection and slight ‘flu-like symptoms such as body aches. One of the neighbours did get a fever for a day or so.

That is why doctors advised everyone who got the vaccine to take a Paracetamol tablet every six hours after they got the injection. Some doctors advised the folk to take Paracetamol before they come for the vaccine.

But the government’s inability to stick to the vaccine priority list has been a matter of concern.

The Head of the Vaccine Task Force Lalith Weeratunge told the government’s favourite Adaderana TV channel that the vaccines will be distributed according to the World Health Organisation guidelines.

Front Health Workers, Police and Forces first responders first and so forth.

But the public was treated to the fact that Members of Parliament were allowed to jump the queue and the sight of a muscular former Cricketer Sanath Jayasuriya being vaccinated apparently in a hospital caused outrage.

There was plenty of anecdotal evidence of people who are stay-at-home Moms for instance, who were vaccinated.

Like in many other instances the government’s policy changes on vaccinations are like a tuk-tuk twisting and turning on the streets looking for a customer. Going one way for a bit and then backtracking immediately.

Former Chief Epidemiologist Dr Nihal Abeysinghe was quoted by Media as saying these changes were causing utter confusion and it was done to get politicians and their henchmen to jump the queue. (Colombo, February 22, 2021)

Reported by Arjuna Ranawana

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