Most of the pandemonium that stalked the initial stages of Sri Lanka’s Public Vaccination Programme, appears to be gradually easing at most vaccination centres with better organization though not without a few inevitable hiccups. The rough edges in the vaccination programme could be further smoothed if the people kept properly informed through the Grama Niladhari of the division on when, where and to whom the vaccines would be administered. Like we have mentioned previously the vaccination programme could be even more streamlined if the private sector hospitals too with their countrywide network are invited to participate in dispensing the vaccines under pre-arranged modalities.
It is against this background that we read the alarming news in our sister newspaper, The Sunday Times that India’s Serum Institute would be unable to supply Sri Lanka with the balance one million doses of the COVISHIELD vaccine, which was to have been delivered in mid-March and April.
The Serum Institute, which supplied us with the first batch of 500,000 vials in February, in a March 3, 2021 dated letter seen by the ST has informed the State Pharmaceuticals Corporation (SPC) that new commitments and a fire at the plant had resulted in the delay.
It is also reported to have said that an update on the status of the vaccine supply would be given only in mid-April and that in the alternative it would support requests for cancellation and refund of the
However, 264,000 doses of vaccines are due this weekend from the global vaccine initiative COVAX, while on Friday the independent Panel of Experts advising the National Medicines Regulatory Authority (NMRA) on vaccines had given the nod for the emergency use of Russia’s Sputnik V while the WHO is yet to grant emergency-use listing for Sputnik V with so far, only Pfizer and AstraZeneca vaccines having got the green light.
Reminiscent of the Health Ministry’s vaccine-related Website, which of course vanished a day or two later together with the priority lists prepared by the National Advisory Committee on Communicable Diseases (NACCD), comes the news that Colombo Mayor Rosy Senanayake is to introduce an e-channelling service to enable city residents to book a date and time to get the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine. We hope her attempt to better organize the vaccination programme would be successful.
Meanwhile, in a Geneva datelined AFP report, the World Health Organization (WHO) said on Friday that Covax would distribute 14.4 million doses of Covid-19 vaccines to 31 more countries next week, and requested the people not to allow complacency to waste the hope that vaccines bring.
The Covax global vaccine-sharing facility has shipped more than 20 million doses to 20 countries as part of the scheme aimed at ensuring poorer nations get access to vaccines, the WHO said while voicing fears that further waves of the coronavirus pandemic could be on the way if people think the global vaccine rollout means the crisis is over.
“The arrival of vaccine is a moment of great hope. But is also a time where we may lose concentration,” WHO emergencies director Michael Ryan told a news conference. “I am really concerned that we think we’re through this. We’re not. And countries are going to lurch back into third and fourth surges if we’re not careful. We should not waste the hope that vaccines bring by dropping our guard in other areas.”
WHO Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus praised the first full week of the Covax rollout, but said wealthy countries were nonetheless still leaving others behind in the vaccination rush.
He said the first round of allocations, running until the end of May, only covered between two and three per cent of the population in recipient states, “even as other countries make rapid progress towards vaccinating their entire population within the next few months”.
Mr. Tedros called for vaccine production to be urgently ramped up, including through linking manufacturers with rival companies that have spare capacity and warned the planet would be feeling the mental scars from the pandemic for years to come with the scale of its impact being worse than during the recovery from World War II.
On our part, we urge Sri Lankans not to be distracted or misled by the misinformation being spread on social media websites by ‘idle minds’ about the side effects of the COVID-19 vaccine, but avail themselves of the vaccine without any hesitation or fear when the vaccines are provided by the health authorities in their residential areas because the best we could do is to cling to the hope that vaccines bring in the fight against the deadly virus.