ECONOMYNEXT – Despite a promising start, Sri Lanka’s COVID-19 vaccination strategy has proved a failure due to gross mismanagement in the rollout, College of Community Physicians President Dr Nihal Abyesinghe said.
Speaking to EconomyNext, Abeysinghe said everyone is in the dark about the government’s vaccination plan.
“Even we don’t know what is happening,” he said.
Pointing to a lack of clarity, Abeyesinghe said the government has only been releasing the number of daily vaccinations without communicating to the public its vaccine strategy in toto.
“For example, there is no information regarding what is going to happen to the vaccines that were brought in yesterday – whether they will be used to vaccinate people above 60 who already got their first jab or to vaccinate above 60s for the first time,” he said.
“What steps will be taken to give the second jab to those who got their first dose? Only the authorities can answer these questions,” he added.
Sri Lanka received 264,000 AstraZeneca (Covishield) doses yesterday under the COVAX facility. Primary Health Care, Epidemics and COVID-19 Disease Control State Minister Dr Sudarshani Fernandopulle told reporters yesterday that the vaccine will be administered to people in the community over the age of 60. The government has so far been vaccinating people over 30 in high risk areas of the Western Province, with allegations rife that a previously approved priority list had been discarded. Including frontline workers, Sri Lanka has vaccinated over 700,000 people so far.
Abeysinhe said other countries’ vaccination drives have been better coordinated.
“Countries that successfully do the vaccination have categorised receivers correctly. They have a plan on whom to vaccinate when to do it, and how the doses will be used. They have done it well,” he said.
“Look at India and where there is a population of over 1.3 billion. They have a more successful vaccination plan,” he added.
Indifference on the part of the public with regard to the flaws in Sri Lanka’s vaccine rollout has led to the authorities continuing on their current path, Abeysinghe further said.
“The general public also does not care as long as they get the vaccine,” he said.
Commenting on the discarded priority list which had identified over 60s as being next in line after frontline workers, Abeysinghe said the change in criteria was the mean reason for the government’s vaccination plans to fail.
“The authorities have again changed their plans and now with the COVAX consignment, they say they will vaccinate citizens above 60 years. I think these changes have shocked the World Health Organisation as well, and even they are unable to interfere,” he said.
Abeysinghe called on the public to ask probing questions from the authorities and hold them accountable.
“People need to ask what the next step is, about how we’re getting the stocks for the second jab that needs to be started in next month and how it’s supposed to work. No one seems to know,” he said.
According to Abeysinghe, many experts have given up on the country’s initially well-laid vaccination plans in sheer frustration and have refused to participate in implementing the current strategy of vaccinating citizens.
“The initial picture of Sri Lanka as a country with a great vaccination plan is no longer true. We have rejected offers to participate too. Why should we waste our time if they don’t take our advice?” he said.
Reported by Chanka Jayasinghe (Colombo/Mar8/2021)