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Tuesday May 11th, 2021

Sri Lanka to revive discarded vaccination priority list: State Minister

ECONOMYNEXT –Sri Lanka will revive a previously discarded priority list for COVID-19 immunisation with last Sunday’s (7) delivery of 264,000 doses of the Covishield vaccine from the COVAX facility, State Minister Dr Sudarshini Fernandopulle said.

The State Minister for Primary Health Services, Pandemics and COVID Prevention told the privately owned Hiru network today that the priority list, which she said adheres to WHO guidelines, has categorised Sri Lankan eligible to receive the vaccine into frontline workers, people above the age of 60, people between 50 and 60 and between 40 and 50.

A majority of patients and deaths due to COVID-19 in Sri Lanka have occurred among people between the ages of 30 and 60, Fernandopulle said.

“Only 10 percent of the total patients found in the country are above 60 years of age. So in order to minimise transmission and protect the work force it was decided to give them the vaccine as well by purchasing it through the State Pharmaceutical Corporation (SPC),” she said.

According to the state minister, Sri Lanka will continue to vaccinate the country’s work force even as it receives vaccines through COVAX for 4.2 million citizens.

She said the decision was taken in order to take into consideration the economic activities of the country that were heavily affected by the previous lockdown.

Responding to criticism about discarding the priority list, Fernandopulle said that WHO guidelines notwithstanding a country reserves the right to make changes to their vaccination strategy according to specific needs.

“After presenting these facts to the president by the epidemiology unit it was decided to purchase vaccines for people in the 30-60 group,” she said.

With the new consignment that arrived last Sunday, she further said, only citizens above 60 years of age  in high risk areas of the Western Province will be vaccinated, while the remainder  of the purchased vaccines will continued to be administered to those above 30.

“No one below 60 will be vaccinated [with the COVAX consignment],” Fernandopulle said.

Meanwhile frontline workers who received the first jab are scheduled to get their second jab in April. Fernandopulle said that though the initial plan was to administer the second jab four weeks after the first, it was later decided to give it after 10 to 12 weeks in keeping with the latest research.

“We have reserved 233,000 plus doses to give as the second jab for the people who got the first jab in January and in first week of February,” she said.

Chief Epidemiologist Dr Sudath Samaraweea confirmed to EconomyNext that the measures are under way to ensure that the second jab will be given in April as scheduled.

“I cannot say we have reserved exactly this many vaccines at the moment. But I can assure you that second jab will be given without any complications,” Samaraweera said.

“Vaccines are still arriving. We have two consignments scheduled to arrive this month and next month as well,” he added.

Reported by Chanka Jayasinghe (Colombo/Mar09/2021)


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