brand logo

Covid vaccine certification and overseas entry criteria: Vaccine passport issues continue for Lankans

a year ago

Share on

  • QR code issue remains; vaccine passport details being uploaded manually
  • SL received assistance from Indian platform service provider: Rambukwella
  • UK yet to accept local vaccine certification; no Russian Sputnik, says the US
By Yoshitha Perera The process to rectify anomalies in the QR codes included in vaccine passports may take some time, as the database must be updated manually to ensure accuracy, The Sunday Morning learnt. The UK and the US published entrance criteria for fully vaccinated individuals last week, causing alarm among Sri Lankans planning international travel. According to international reports, the UK was yet to approve Sri Lanka’s vaccine certificate, while the US stated it will not recognise the Russian-made Sputnik V vaccine. According to the health officials, Sri Lankan vaccine credentials were not accepted by certain European countries due to a technical fault that prevented the certificate holder’s date of birth from being clearly visible when the QR code was scanned. Speaking to The Sunday Morning, Minister of Health Keheliya Rambukwella said Sri Lanka was receiving assistance from a platform service provider in India to fix the matter. “We are currently taking necessary measures to fix the particular fault immediately. It will take some time to rectify the matter, but we took steps to correct it straight away,” he explained. Commenting on the US not accepting the Sputnik V vaccine, the Minister opined that geopolitics may be at play, adding: “The US refused to accept what Russia and China manufactured. These issues do not have a scientific basis; they are a political concern.” Rambukwella went on to say that although a few countries raised concerns with regard to certain vaccine brands, it did not mean that Sri Lankans could not visit those countries. “Certain conditions must be met by the travellers who were immunised with vaccine brands that were not included in a particular country’s vaccine criteria, before entering that country. However, with the vaccine brands available in Sri Lanka, we can manage the situation,” the Minister added. Responding to a query, he stated that Sri Lanka was administering World Health Organisation (WHO)-approved vaccines. Yet, there were some organised groups that were speaking against some vaccine brands, spreading misconceptions. The Minister said that during the past few weeks, the Government observed that many youngsters were hesitant to receive the Sinopharm, AstraZeneca, and Sputnik V vaccines due to fears of not being eligible to enter certain countries. “We are educating people and asking them to get the vaccines available in their area. There are some groups spreading misconceptions, and those are not medically proven,” he said. The WHO, on the other hand, has put the Emergency Use Listing process for Russia’s Sputnik V Covid-19 vaccine on hold pending the completion of some missing data and legal procedures. The WHO announced on Wednesday (13) that they are working with the United Nations (UN) to resolve the issue as soon as possible. Immunisation certificate complications Speaking to The Sunday Morning, Deputy Director General of Public Health Services Dr. Hemantha Herath said the health authorities were working to vaccinate the largest proportion of the population with WHO-approved vaccines. “If someone requires a specific vaccine, those individuals have to provide evidence or supporting documents for the requirement; only then can we make arrangements to obtain that particular vaccine,” he said. Dr. Herath said that every country had the right to accept or reject immunisation certificates issued by other countries, while stating that they were currently taking the necessary measures – i.e. by entering it manually – to ensure the date of birth was visible when the QR code was scanned, in order to adhere to the UK’s vaccination criteria. “We have to check and enter the dates of birth one by one, and it will take some time. However, we are in the process of handling the matter,” he said. Dr. Herath explained that Covid-19 vaccinations were not commercially accessible, as the vaccines were obtained through government-to-government bilateral agreements. “No decision was taken to administer two doses of the Pfizer vaccination to those travelling internationally. We took steps to import Pfizer vaccines so that those above the age of 20 could receive a booster shot. That is the same solution the Government would offer to those who want to travel internationally,” he explained. Administering booster shots Explaining the process of the administration of a Covid-19 booster shot, Rambukwella said that Sri Lanka intended to roll out the administration of Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines as the third dose for fully immunised adults over the age of 20. “Necessary steps have been taken to place a purchase order for 14.5 million doses of Pfizer-BioNTech vaccinations in the coming months, and we intend to give the people their third booster shot,” he stated. The Minister stated the State Pharmaceuticals Corporation (SPC) signed an agreement with Pfizer Inc. last week for the procurement of more Covid-19 vaccines, adding: “As part of the first phase of the vaccination programme, health officials would administer a third dose to those over 60 years old who have comorbidities, as well as health workers and members of the tri-forces.” In the next three weeks, one million more doses of the Pfizer vaccine will arrive in Sri Lanka, with other batches likely in November and December, the Minister added.

You may also like