ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka will not receive the next consignment of the AstraZeneca Covishield vaccine at the expected window due to the prevailing situation in India, a health official said.
Chief Epidemiologist Dr Sudath Samaraweera told reporters yesterday that the COVAX facility too is struggling to acquire vaccines from the Serum Institute of India (SII) which is under pressure to deliver vaccines to epidemic-ravaged India.
Meanwhile, around 65 -75 people who had received the first dose of Covishield have tested positive for the virus, he said.
According to Samaraweera, Sri Lanka is now considering a mix-and-match approach to the second dose rollout. If implemented, over 600,000 Sri Lankans who have already received their first shot of Covishield may receive a different brand of vaccine as their second shot. (There are some 300,000 doses of Covishield set aside to be administered as the second shot out of a total of 1.2 million doses either donated by India or purchased from SII, according to Health Ministry data).
“Experiments are under way [internationally] and if there are positive results, we can give another vaccine as the second shot,” Samaraweera said.
From January 29 to April 15, 925,242 Sri Lankans including the front line health workers have received their first shot of Covishied while 2,865 Chinese nationals employed in Sri Lanka received the Chinese-made Sinopharm jab as their first dose.
The administration of the second dose started on April 27, and 22,919 personnel in the health sector and the military have received a second shot of Covishield, while 2,435 Chinese nationals have received the second dose of Sinopharm.
“We ask the general public to exercise extreme caution and not to be infected specially those above 60 years of age, patients with non-communicable diseases and underlying conditions, Children and pregnant women can also be severely affected by the virus,” Samaraweera said.
Consultant Neurologist and President Sri Lanka Medical Association (SLMA) Dr Padma Gunaratne said the first and last three months are crusial for pregnant women as infection may cause serious issues during labour. If infected, she warned, a premature delivery could occur in 35 weeks rather than 38.
Meanwhile, State Minister of Primary Health Care, Epidemics and COVID Disease Control Dr Sudarshini Fernandopulle said intermediate treatment centres dedicated to COVID-19 patients will be established in every district as the positivity rate of daily PCR tests increased to eight percent yesterday, a significant increase from the previous three percent.
“This increment happened rapidly within just 10 days. We expect it to increase more. Clusters are forming in every district, so we’re establishing district intermediate hospitals for treatment,” she said.
Fernandopulle further said discussions are under way to give district Medical Officers of Health (MoH) to analyse the situation in their jurisdiction and impose curfew if necessary in order to contain the spread.
With the rapid increase in case, a backlog of PCR tests have emerged, resulting in increased testing, the minister said.
Health authorities conducted 23, 730 PCR tests yesterday and identified 1,531 cases, the highest yet in Sri Lanka. Over 1,000 people have tested positively daily in the last three days.
Chairman of the Public Health Inspectors (PHI) Union Upul Rohan told reporters that, with more clusters emerging in every district, the government must go for a lock down to control the situation.
“At the moment the situation is critical. We have found many clusters where we can’t trace the source of the virus,” Rohana said.
“Many patients who have symptoms are still in their homes until health authorities take them to hospitals. Ambulances to transport them are also limited. Even PHIs are in danger. We urge the authorities to go for a lock down or at least impose travel restrictions to contain the spread,” he said. (Colombo/Apr30/2021)