The vaccination mess: Government tells officials don’t give in to political influence
ECONOMYNEXT- Sri Lanka’s government is asking Heath Officials not to accede to political pressure when carrying out the country’s vaccination programme against the Covid 19 pandemic.
Speaking at the weekly cabinet briefing held this morning, Co-Cabinet Spokesman Minister Ramesh Pathirana said that President Gotabaya Rajapaksa and Health Minister Pavithra Wanniarachchi have instructed officials to make sure that no political interventions happen over the vaccination effort.
He said that the vaccination program which is managed by the health officials is being conducted especially in areas where the most number of COVID patients were found in the Western Province.
However, the vaccination drive has been dogged by allegations that people with political influence have jumped the queue creating conflicts at the vaccinating centres.
The government has frequently changed the rules about vaccinations. At first, it announced that the jab would be given to all those over 60 years of age with underlying conditions such as diabetes, high blood pressure or sicknesses such as kidney disease or lung conditions.
However, it changed its position and said all those between 30 and 60 would be vaccinated. At the same time, some vaccination centres said all those over 30 would be vaccinated whether they had underlying co-morbidities or not.
“Medical officers and the Public Health Inspectors have complete authority of the program under the supervision of the Health Ministry. No one has the ability or space to politically influence them,” Pathirana added.
Moreover, he said that if health officials are subjected to such influences the government requests them not to bow down to these forces and carry out their work independently.
The Minister said that the government rejects such political influences in the vaccination programme but added if such complaints exist, the government has the ability to take actions against them.
However, State Minister Sudarshini Fernandopulle said in February that the top officials at the Health Ministry have taken snap decisions on the country’s COVID-19 vaccine rollout, in complete disregard of Ministry-sanctioned recommendations made by a technical committee.
“When decisions have already been made [regarding the rollout timetable], these officials suddenly call at night and say start the programme right away. We can’t do it this way,” the state minister said.
EconomyNext learns that the ad hoc decisions being made by officials on the ground in violation of the guidelines laid down by the World Health Organisation have seriously affected the vaccination schedules for Sri Lanka.
Officials told EconomyNext under the condition of anonymity that the frequent changes being made to “please various politicians” has undermined the vaccination schedule jeopardizing the process.
“If they had stuck to the proper schedule to first vaccinate the people at most risk of death, which are the over-sixties with co-morbidities and then progressed towards the younger groups with these conditions, then there would be no issues,” they said.
However, the vaccines were given out at the whim and fancy of various parties with influential politicians and sporting stars being vaccinated ahead of the at-risk elderly folk in contravention of the WHO guidelines. (Colombo, March 9, 2021)
Reported by Imesh Ranasinghe