While claiming that no steps have been taken to suspend the use of AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine in Sri Lanka, Health Minister Pavithra Wanniarachchi said today that the government had taken several moves to identify cases of adverse side effects of the vaccine.
She told parliament that the government has appointed a committee of medical experts - Adverse Event Following Immunization (AEFI) to identify cases of long term after-effects of the AstraZeneca vaccine.
She said the committee headed by Director General of Health Services comprises of Chef Epidemiologist Dr. Sudath Samaraweera, Immunologist Neelika Malavige, General Physician Ananda Wijewickrame, Hematologist Vishaka Malalasekara, Neurologist Sunethra Gunawardane, Virologist Kanthi Nanayakkara, Immunologist Rajiwa de Silva, Chief Judicial Medical Consultant Ajith Thennakoon, Epidemiologist Samitha Ginige, Hematologist Lalindra, General Physician Upali Dissanayake and Epidemiologist Deepa Gamage.
Responding to a question raised by Opposition Leader Sajith Premadasa, the Health Minister said a 24-hour Hot-line has also been set up to inform the cases of adverse effects of the vaccine and added that a special unit has been established in the Colombo National Hospital for patients with such adverse side effects.
She said those who were vaccinated with the AstraZeneca vaccine has been advised to obtain medical advice if any allergic conditions such as headache, sore-throat, difficulty in breathing and acute pain in the leg persistent after four days of vaccination.
The Minister said several cases of blood clots have been reported from various countries and added that six such cases have been reported in Sri Lanka where three of them have died.
She said according to the findings of the Committee to review adverse effects of vaccines of the WHO, there is no direct link between blood clots and COVID-19 vaccination and added that it was estimated to report four to six such cases out of one million.
She said there was a less tendency of forming blood clots due to COVID-19 vaccination.
The Minister said steps have been taken to provide the second dose of AstraZeneca vaccine by the first week of May to those who were administered with the first dose.
The Minister said unnecessary publicity to the rare adverse effects of the vaccination may result in the loss of public confidence on the vaccination.(Ajith Siriwardana and Yohan Perera)