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Sri Lanka’s vaccine rollout a failure: Dr Nihal Abyesinghe

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)

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  1. Dr Nihal Abeysinghe is a politician.Please take some unbiased,credible source next time

  2. India has entrusted the vaccination to Private Hospitals (who have storage facility)as well.On
    payment of Ind Rs.250/= people who are over 60
    get their vaccines hassle-free.In Colombo the officials harass the public irrespective of their age.
    I am 79 years old live in Wellawatta.Went with my wife for the vaccination to MOH’s office in Wellawatte
    I was asked to go to Narahenpita.My NIC indicates my residential address as Wellawatta

  3. I live in England and have been so for 46 years, but visited SL every year and carried out lot of work on a charitable basis, helping poor village schools, school children and building houses for some poor families, as well as helping Buddhist Temples where pious monks live as well as Meditation centres.
    I follow the Sri Lankan news on Sri Lankan TV channels on a daily basis.
    I am appalled and saddened at the way the government has handled the Covid vaccination program and also allowed the Corona virus to spread.
    At the first surge last year the govt. had a well organised strategy with only 13 deaths and and just over 300 infected cases. Today the figures are – reported number of infected cases 85,,685 and 502 deaths ( how accurate these figures are not certain). The Govt. should have imposed a lockdown, just like the curfew last time. instead what the Governing party as well as other political parties are doing is holding massive political party gatherings with thousands of people attending with a flimsy blue mask and standing shoulder to shoulder. All the political parties are guilty, but mostly the government. Also politicians continue to attend Buddhist temples and religious festivals again with the same practises as mentioned..
    Wearing a mask is just one preventive measure and equally or more important is social distancing and washing hands for at least 20 seconds with soap and water, which i do not think the ordinary poor folk who attend these meetings know or are told to do so..
    Instead what the govt. is doing is harassing people returning to Sri Lanka from abroad by quarantining them in hotels chosen by the authorities and i am told some of them belonging to government ministers or their favourites and in very poor accommodation. What needs to be done urgently is to impose a curfew in the badly affected areas just like the way they did the last time as well as promote hand washing and social distancing. Stop all political rallies in the entire country and stop attending temples with vast crowds. One can observe one’s religious practices in their own homes.
    On vaccination, start vaccinating the above 70s first. do that in large open places like parks with officials or army and police managing the queues with social distancing and discipline with no favouritism as we observed on TV.
    Hand over the Covid preventive program to the doctors with support from the army and police.

    1. There are no guidelines for vaccination after abolishing the policy . Nobody knows what will they do tomorrow.
      I spoke to MOH office Battaramulla several times. But they don’t have a clue about restarting the vaccination.

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