ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka will begin vaccinating the general public against COVID-19 today (15) with what was to be the second dose of the Covishield vaccine for frontline workers, officials said.
Members of the public who are at high risk of exposure – for example, port workers – will receive the vaccine, starting in parts of the Western Province today, a spokesman for Sri Lanka’s pandemic task force told EconomyNext.
The remaining 250,000 doses of the India-manufatured Covishield-Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine that frontline workers were to receive 12 weeks after their first jab will be repurposed for this, the spokesperson said.
Sri Lanka started vaccinating frontline workers in the health sector and the military on January 29, with the half a million doses of Covishield that was donated by the Indian government later that month.
Army Commander Gen Shavendra Silva told the media today that since health officials had decided that for best results the two doses should be given 12 weeks, President Gotabaya Rajapaksa had asked the vaccination task force to consider the possibility of giving those doses to the general public instead.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) recommends giving the two doses intramuscularly (0.5ml each) with an interval of 8 to 12 weeks.
Meanwhile, in a separate development, Sri Lanka has stopped rapid antigen test due to a number of false positives.
“We have stopped rapid antigen tests because it is not very accurate. There is a lot of problems with it,” Col Vijitha Hettiarachchi, spokesperson for the National Operations Centre for Prevention of Covid-19 (NOCPOC), told EconomyNext.
“After 20-minutes of conducting a rapid antigen test, even if the result is negative, within 20 minutes it becomes positive,” explained Hettiarachchi, adding that to prevent false positives the tests must be conducted within that time frame.
However, he said random tests using the antigen kits will be activated during a long-weekend or festivals when people tend to travel a lot. (Colombo/Feb15/2021)