ECONOMYNEXT – There is no super vaccine, and all vaccines provide adequate protection against COVID-19, Sri Lanka’s health authorities were compelled to declare on Tuesday (21) as vaccine hesitancy among the country’s youth continued to reach concerning levels.
“Get any vaccine that’s easily available to you as soon as possible,” a health official pleaded.
Sri Lanka’s COVID-19 vaccine rollout has otherwise been going smoothly, with vaccination of the 30-years-and-above population now nearly complete. But health authorities have been able to jab only 37.7 percent of the 20-29 age group as of September 20.
State Minister of Production, Supply and Regulation of Pharmaceuticals Channa Jayasumana told parliament on Tuesday that “fake news” circulated online has led to a vaccine hesitance among young Sri Lankans aged 20 to 29.
Among other unsubstantiated claims, these online falsehoods suggest vaccination could lead to sexual dysfunction, reproduction and fertility issues, or the destruction of the immune system, said Jayasumana.
“There has been much research done regarding these vaccines and no study has yet proved these claims,” he said.
The Public Health Inspectors (PHI) Union also said the vaccination of the age group is much slower than anticipated.
One of the reasons, according to a PHI union spokesperson, is that younger people tend to show a preference to the Pfizer-BionTech jab due to a belief that it has the highest efficacy.
So far, the Pfizer vaccine is being rolled out only in the southern province and Batticalao district in the country. However, 14 million doses of the US-made vaccine has been ordered to vaccinate children and to be administered as a third dose or booster shot.
The Chinese Sinopharm is Sri Lanka’s most widely used COVID-19 vaccine so far.
According to Jayasumana, so far Sri Lanka has received 26 million doses of Sinopharm, 2,719,840 doses of Astrazeneca, 1,010,430 doses of Pfizer, 1,500,100 doses of Moderna and 330,000 doses of Sputnik V.
Health officers also said, with more western and European countries requesting the Pfizer vaccine, local demand for the US jab has increased among people aged 20 to 29.
State Minister Jayasumana said the government’s target is to vaccinate 76 percent of the total population within the next few months.
“As of September 20, the first dose of a vaccine has been administered to 62.9 percent of the total population while 50.7 percent have been fully vaccinated,” Jayasumana told parliament on Tuesday.
Jayasumana further said with the vaccination still taking place and travel restrictions in also place the number of daily cases has decreased.
“The number of patients depending on oxygen has also reduced to 535 from 1,040 and patients in intensive care units have dropped by 15 percent,” he said.
Though a total of 39,000 beds that have been allocated for COVID-19 patients in hospitals, only 16,000 are currently occupied, said Jayasumana. Out of 540 ICU beds, only 210 are being used.
“By August 23, we had an oxygen consumption of 134 tons per day, but now it has gone down to 64 tons per day.
“We can now stop importing oxygen from India and depend on local production,” he said. (Colombo/Sep21/2021)