The Government will provide immunisation against COVID-19 free-of-charge like any other vaccination program, State Minister of Primary Healthcare, Epidemics and COVID Disease Control Dr. Sudarshini Fernandopulle yesterday said.
She explained that the State Pharmaceutical Cooperation has been given the responsibility of importing the vaccine and that the first batch of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine will reach the island this week.
“Given the reception of 600,000 doses during the first phase, we have identified close to 300,000 persons including all health units in the frontline of COVID-19 prevention as well as among the Tri-Forces and Police,” Dr. Fernandopulle said.
She added that measures have been taken to begin vaccination the day after the batch is received by the country. The second dose will be administered three weeks after the first.
“Last week, under the observation of the Health Ministry, a rehearsal was held at three locations to identify any issues that can arise during vaccination,” she went on to say.
The State Minister added that the country is expected to receive sufficient doses for 20% of the population through COVAX and the remaining quantity required by the country will be purchased and provided to all citizens according to a priority list.
Secretary to the State Ministry Dr. Amal Harsha de Silva said: “The State Pharmaceutical Cooperation has already taken steps to bring down 2 million doses of another vaccine and there are so many efforts in the country to produce our own vaccines. There are many proposals coming our way and I think the future is not that bleak for Sri Lanka.”
Meanwhile, Sri Jayewardenepura University Immunology and Molecular Medicine Department Lecturer Dr. Chandima Jeewandara yesterday stated that the vaccine provides immunity against the N439K mutation recently identified in the country.
The mutation is mainly reported from UK, Denmark, Iceland, Switzerland, and Germany and is highly contagious. However, Dr. Jeewandara explained that the Health Ministry is aware of this and has already taken required measures. There was thus no need for unnecessary fear, he said.
“On a request of the Health Ministry and the Epidemiology Unit, the Sri Jayewardenepura University laboratory carried out genetic sequencing in the past week. When carrying out genetic sequencing this time, we received samples of positive patients among overseas arrivals and from various centres across the country,” Dr. Jeewandara explained.
Two main factors were identified through studies. One was the identification of a lineage unique to Sri Lanka. “We call it B1-411 and it is a 100% Sri Lankan lineage,” he said.
The second observation was the N439K mutation which was detected in certain persons identified as COVID-19 positive in the past two weeks.