Highlight 60-plus, immune-deficient below 60, and health professionals
BY Pamodi WaravitaWriting to President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, the Sri Lanka Medical Association (SLMA) yesterday (27) stressed the urgent need to immediately give the US-German-manufactured Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine as a third dose for all people over the age of 60 years, patients below 60 years of age with an immune-deficient status, and all healthcare professionals, in order to prevent another wave of Covid-19 infections in the near future. “It has been established that 7% of elders who received the Chinese Sinopharm vaccine in Sri Lanka have not developed an adequate level of immunity against Covid-19. Furthermore, healthcare professionals are now completing six months following the last dose of their Oxford-AstraZeneca Indian-made Covishield vaccine, and therefore, their immunity levels will begin to wane. They will soon be at a greatly increased risk of contracting the Covid-19 infection. As such, people over 60 years of age, patients below the age of 60 years with an immune-deficient status, and all healthcare professionals should be given a third dose or a booster of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine without delay. This should be considered as one of the highest priority activities to prevent another wave of infections in the near future,” the SLMA said in a press release yesterday. The association also noted that the reopening of schools and the lifting of mobility restrictions will significantly increase the risk of elders contracting Covid-19 from their grandchildren, and that they are more prone than other age groups to severe disease and death. Furthermore, the SLMA said that the present implementation of public health guidelines is “extremely lax” and therefore, urged a closer monitoring system to prevent another surge in Covid-19 infections. “The reasonable health guidelines are widely disobeyed by the public. Many don’t adhere to wearing masks, and social distancing is not maintained in public places such as shops, markets, places of worship, and at events such as funerals. We therefore urge the Government to take adequate measures to enforce these regulations through a system of close monitoring and ensure that the health regulations issued by the Health Services Director General are fully implemented.” In a similar vein, the SLMA also said that the Government should continue the current restrictions placed on super spreader events such as weddings, religious events, funerals, musical shows, and gatherings at clubs in enclosed areas. Moreover, the organisation said that an early detection in the rise of infections is important in order to prevent another Covid-19 wave and thereby, urged the strengthening of the Covid-19 surveillance system. “We request the Health Ministry to maintain a high level of testing for Covid-19, including in the community, and to strengthen the Severe Acute Respiratory Infections (SARI) surveillance system in outpatient departments (OPDs) of all major hospitals.” The SLMA sent these recommendations in writing to President Rajapaksa yesterday.Sri Lanka faced a severe rise in Covid-19 infections during the past few months, with health professionals mainly attributing this to the rapid spread of the Delta B.1.617.2 Covid-19 variant of Indian origin. However, infection numbers and deaths due to Covid-19 have been waning this month.