A news item, which is bound to alarm most Sri Lankans was that the Health Ministry had from March 31, temporarily halted its COVID-19 vaccination programme due to the delay in obtaining a sufficient quantity of AstraZeneca vaccines from the Serum Institute of India (SII). Sri Lanka launched its inoculation programme on January 29 after India gifted 500,000 vials of the vaccine.
The Daily Mirror quoted the Primary Healthcare and COVID-19 Prevention State Minister Sudarshini Fernandopulle as saying that the available Oxford-AstraZeneca doses were needed to provide the second jab to those already vaccinated. The second dose was to be administered from April 19. She said SII had recently suspended exports of the vaccine and it was uncertain when the next consignment would arrive from India.
The WHO has recommended that the second jab be made available within 12 weeks of the first but whether it is possible under the current circumstances is left to be seen. After the initial gift from India, Sri Lanka placed an order for more doses of the Indian vaccine Covishield, which is being manufactured by the Pune-based SII under an agreement with the University of Oxford and AstraZeneca.
Be that as it may, the College of Medical Laboratory Science (CMLS) has highlighted the danger of Sri Lanka having solely relied on the Indian Covishield vaccine.
CMLS President Ravi Kumudesh told the media that health officials had no idea as to what to do and whether we could obtain the Covishield vaccines on time for the second dose.
Meanwhile, China has donated 600,000 doses of Sinopharm vaccines but neither the National Medicines Regulatory Authority (NMRA) nor the WHO has approved its emergency use and is currently being administered to Chinese workers in the country.
We hope the government would be able to secure sufficient vials of Covishield vaccines for the second jab as soon as possible, if not the first phase of the vaccine rollout would be a wasted effort with nothing much the people could do other than live with the usual doses of confusion and uncertainty.
Last Sunday Christians the world over celebrated the great feast of Easter. In Sri Lanka, the church services were conducted amid tight security to prevent any possible repetition of the April 21, 2019 carnage when suicide bombers blasted themselves during the packed Easter Sunday morning services at St Anthony’s Shrine in Kochchikade, Colombo 13, at St Sebastian’s Church in Katuwapitiya, Negombo, at Zion Church in Batticaloa and three luxury hotels in Colombo - Cinnamon Grand, Kingsbury and Shangri-la.
Nearly 269 devotees and guests including the nine bombers were killed and more than 500 injured, some left maimed or bed-ridden. Among the victims were men, women and children, including foreigners holidaying in Sri Lanka. For the past two years, the Archbishop of Colombo, Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith has been seeking justice for the devotees, who lost their lives or were injured in the 2019 Easter Sunday massacre carried out by misguided
Although the Cardinal had initially welcomed the assurance given by President Gotabaya Rajapaksa that under his Presidency and a Government led by him, the culprits, who had aided and abetted the suicide bombers, would be arrested and hauled before Courts and punished, he now appears to be disappointed as none of those assurances was fulfilled even two years later.
The Cardinal is also on record as saying that the Presidential Commission of Inquiry (PCoI) had not revealed the name of the mastermind nor identified those who funded the bombers or pulled the strings as it were and provided them with the resources to carry out the well-coordinated attacks that shocked and shook the country on that ill-fated Sunday.
The Cardinal has warned that if the request made by the Church continues to be ignored a massive protest campaign would be held on April 21, the second anniversary of the suicide bombings and asked the government not to appoint any more committees and delay action against those responsible. “We won’t be fooled again.
Please, don’t try to mislead us. The PCoI on the Easter Sunday attacks took 18 months to submit its report. There is no need to delay action on its recommendations. If taking action, based on this report, is delayed further it is an indication that there is no law in this country,” he said.
Will the mystery encircling the Easter Sunday attacks, be ever unravelled or instead will the dilly-dallying continue as it happens in most such cases?Let us wait and see.