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Friday May 7th, 2021
Health

Sri Lanka appoints presidential task force to oversee COVID-19 vaccination

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka has established a presidential task force to oversee a proposed COVID-19 vaccination drive in the country, according to a gazette notification dated December 31, 2020.

Chief advisor to the presidentLalith Weeratunga, as chair of the new task force, will oversee the “National Deployment and Vaccination Plan for COVID-19”. The task force is expected to, among other things, identify a safe and efficacious COVID-19 vaccine(s) that is most appropriate for Sri Lanka in consultation with technical experts and on available evidence. According to the gazette, it is tasked with establishing appropriate and streamlined regulatory and administrative procedures for emergency approval, and is also expected to fast -track procurement, imports, customs clearances and release to the national immunisation programme in order to facilitate timely access.

The gazette noted that the task force will collaborate with relevant embassies, donors, UN Agencies and professional groups for technical and material support, and identify and prioritise population groups who are at higher risk from COVID-19 for vaccination in the first phase, and thereafter sequence the delivery for the general public.

Additional secretary to the president Chandima Wickramasinghe serves as secretary to the task force.

“I do hereby authorize the Presidential Task Force for National Deployment and Vaccination Plan for COVID-19 Vaccine to issue directions, make inquiries, and investigate such matters as may be necessary in relation to the execution of tasks hereby entrusted,” declared President Gotabaya Rajajapksa in the gazette.

Last week, the cabinet of ministers greenlit a proposal by Health Minister Pavithra Wanniarachchi to enter into an agreement with the manufacturer when acquiring a vaccine through the COVAX facility. Presidential advisor Weeratunga told a private TV station this week that the first batch of the vaccine should arrive in Sri Lanka before the national New Year in April 2021.

Meanwhile, visiting Indian External Affairs Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar had assured President Rajapaksa that Sri Lanka will be prioritised when an Indian-manufactured vaccine is ready for export, according to a statement issued by the president’s office.

The full list of tasks assigned to the president task force are as follows:

(a) Identify a safe and efficacious COVID-19 vaccine(s) that is most appropriate for Sri Lanka in consultation with technical experts and on available evidence.

(b) Establish appropriate and streamlined regulatory and administrative procedures for emergency approval, fast track procurement, imports, customs clearances and release to the national immunization programme in order to facilitate timely access to COVID-19 vaccines.

(c) Collaborate with relevant embassies, donors, UN Agencies and professional groups for technical and material support.

(d) Identify and prioritize population groups who are at higher risk from COVID-19 for vaccination in the first phase, and thereafter sequence the delivery for the general public.

e) Formulate and implement a COVID-19 vaccine deployment and vaccination plan including inter alia clear responsibilities, standard operating procedures and time-lines for participating stakeholders, chain of reporting and management structures.

(f) Assess existing supply chain systems in order to identify and address gaps, such as in storage, distribution, temperature monitoring and tracking and reporting vaccine stocks.

(g) Establish a robust supply chain information system on stock management and distribution that includes monitoring and reporting of vaccine utilization.

(h) Devise appropriate logistics plan for the roll out of the vaccination plan, including identification of locations for vaccination, vaccination teams, procurement of required equipment, consumables and their distribution, cold chain capacities and storage of the vaccine, and monitor its implementation.

(i) Identify the human resources, technology, and budgetary requirements to ensure timely delivery of vaccines and vaccination.

(j) Regularly review global information related to COVID-19 vaccines and incorporate it, where appropriate, into the planning and preparation for COVID-19 vaccine deployment and vaccination processes.

(k) Enforce a vaccination vigilance plan to record and monitor the process of vaccination and report adverse events in real-time.

(l) Ensure proper training for supply chain and health staff for the successful and timely deployment of vaccines and vaccination and liaise with relevant experts and agencies to ensure quality of training.

(m) Establish a public communication mechanism to report on the progress of the vaccine deployment and vaccination strategy.

Reported by Chanka Jayasinghe. Edited by Himal Kotelawala. (Colombo/Jan11/2021)

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