Whilst highlighting that COVID-19 pandemic will not end this year, the vaccine distribution will be a time-consuming process, former Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe said.
He called for the appointment of a special parliamentary select committee to monitor the developments regarding the process of obtaining effective vaccines.
A Parliamentary select committee can monitor the distribution of COVID-19 vaccine and report to the House on its progress, Mr. Wickremesinghe said during a discussion with a group of youth in Mirihana on Saturday.
"An assurance has been given by the government that vaccines will be available in March this year. This is far from being the truth.
Firstly the vaccine will be available only to 20 percent of the population as per GAVI (Global Alliance for Vaccine and Immunisation). India has said its vaccine will be available to only a 20 million population in the SAARC region. The total population in the SAARC region is around 600 million.
Therefore, only a fraction of the Sri Lankan population will have access to the vaccine.
Secondly, Sri Lanka has failed to implement guidelines stipulated by certain international programmes such as The Vaccines Pillar of the Access to COVID-19 Tools (ACT) Accelerator. Sri Lanka has also failed to appoint a Strategic Advisory Group of Experts committee stipulated by WHO. Sri Lanka had also failed to provide an advanced market commitment as per the deadline which was beginning of November last year. Sri Lanka did this only in January this year.
These shortcomings will lead to a delay in obtaining vaccines," he said.
"Sri Lanka, like other countries, is experiencing the third wave of COVID-19. Waves of COVID-19 come one after the other. Besides, there are different variants of the disease. There is the British variant which has already come to Sri Lanka, there is a South African variant which cannot be contained with the vaccine. There is also a Brazilian variant which a patient could get infected more than once.
Therefore, the pandemic is not going to end soon according to world health experts," he added.
"In such circumstances forming a government at troubled times such as this is like getting infected by COVID-19 deliberately. What we should be doing now is to come together as a nation to fight the pandemic forgetting political differences," he also said.(Yohan Perera)