News

Covid-19 vaccination programme: Racing against variants

  • Delta variant detected in five districts
  • Vaccination progressing at full throttle
  • 90K Pfizer, 1.6 m Sinopharm arriving tomorrow
  • Public requested to adhere to guidelines

By Yumiko Perera

With an alarming number of new cases connected to the highly contagious Indian Delta (B.1.617.2) variant that has reportedly spread across several areas in Sri Lanka, authorities fear that the country is facing a resurgence of the pandemic.

The Indian Delta variant has already been detected in five districts in the Western, Northern, and Southern Provinces, and health authorities of the country predict that it would spread throughout the country over the next two to four weeks.

Whilst it is estimated that nearly 8% of the population of the country have been completely inoculated with two doses, approximately 25% of the population have received at least one dose of a Covid-19 vaccine, The Sunday Morning learnt.

Speaking to The Sunday Morning, Director General of Public Health Services and Disaster Preparedness and Response Division Head Dr. Hemantha Herath stated the country continues to make great progress on the vaccination front.

“The only limiting factor, for the time being, is the availability of vaccines. However, the country has received several consignments over the course of the past week as well, and now we have the capacity to administer at least 300,000 doses per day. I would say that this is great progress, given the circumstances,” he noted.

Furthermore, emphasising that the vaccination programmes across the country are functioning at full throttle, Dr. Herath elaborated that the country is meeting its vaccination targets at a steady pace.

“Everything depends on the availability of vaccines, and we could have completed immunising all the target groups by now if we had the required quantities of vaccines that we had requested. However, vaccine stocks are coming in, and the programme would continue until all Sri Lankans are fully immunised,” he noted.

Meanwhile, according to Dr. Herath, there is a backlog when it comes to the digitisation of data with regard to the vaccination process. However, continuous additions are being made, as the systems are constantly updated.

“There are certain places where data facilities are not readily available, so there is a slight backlog. But we have employed additional staff to make sure the systems are updated and to see that the backlogs are cleared. There is an additional load of activities, given that a large number of people are being vaccinated across the island; as a result, there will be a small backlog every day and we are working towards updating the systems promptly,” he explained.

According to State Minister of Primary Healthcare, Epidemics, and Covid Disease Control Dr. Sudarshini Fernandopulle, there has been a slight increase in Covid-19 patients admitted to hospitals daily, with the average daily rate of detected patients fluctuating between 1,400 and 1,500 at present.

She further stressed that the general public must understand that the risk has not been eliminated, and people must act responsibly.

Furthermore, Dr. Herath, speaking on the present situation and the imminent threat of the Delta variant, noted: “It is evident that the Delta variant is present in the country, so now what is required is to take every possible action to prevent any excess cases and deaths. The health authorities are doing their best, but there needs to be co-operation from the public’s side as well.”

Meanwhile, Police Media Spokesman Senior Deputy Inspector General (SDIG) Ajith Rohana reiterated that those who violate the quarantine regulations hereon would have to face stricter restrictions, and further added that additional police officers are expected to be deployed for quarantine operations, especially during weekends.

As per Epidemiology Unit statistics, 385,885 doses of the Covishield second jab have been rolled out, The Sunday Morning learnt.

Moreover, 4,791,039 doses of the Sinopharm vaccine have been rolled out as the first jab, along with 1,322,649 vaccines as the second jab; 159,081 doses of Sputnik V have also been administered, along with 14,464 as the second jab; and 91,992 doses of the Pfizer vaccine, along with 349,848 doses of the Moderna vaccine, had also been administered as of 21 July 2021, The Sunday Morning learnt.

Moreover, 4,919,323 doses of the Sinopharm vaccine have been rolled out as the first jab,

along with 1,346,048 vaccines as the second jab; 159,081 doses of Sputnik V have also

been administered, along with 14,464 as the second jab; and 126,058 doses of the Pfizer

vaccine, along with 563,368 doses of the Moderna vaccine, had also been administered as

of 23 July 2021, The Sunday Morning learnt.

Pallekele vaccine manufacturing plant awaiting WHO approval: SPMC Chair

Speaking to The Sunday Morning, State Pharmaceuticals Manufacturing Corporation (SPMC) Chairman Dr. Uthpala Indrawansa stated that the SPMC is still awaiting the approval of the World Health Organisation (WHO) for the vaccine manufacturing facility located in Pallekele.

“The SPMC aims at having a vaccine filling and dispensing manufacturing plant, which is not only a state-of-the-art facility, but also approved by the WHO. Thereby, the country would be able to produce its own vaccines, regardless of what it may be, granted that we would have the capacity, infrastructure, and approval to do so,” he noted.

New vaccine consignments and distribution plan

Sri Lanka received several consignments of Covid-19 vaccines over the past week, and the country is expecting several more consignments in the near future, The Sunday Morning learnt.

A consignment of two million doses of the Chinese Sinopharm vaccine, which had been purchased by the State Pharmaceuticals Manufacturing Corporation (SPMC), arrived on the island on Thursday (22), bringing the total number of Sinopharm doses the country has received to 9.1 million.

Speaking to The Sunday Morning, State Minister of Production, Supply, and Regulation of Pharmaceuticals Prof. Channa Jayasumana elaborated on the distribution plan of the latest batch of Sinopharm vaccines.

According to Prof. Jayasumana, 400,000 doses of the Sinopharm vaccine have been allocated to be sent to the Kurunegala District, 275,000 doses to the Galle District; and 200,000 doses each to the Matara, Badulla, and Ratnapura Districts.

He further elaborated that 125,000 doses of the Sinopharm vaccine would be allocated to the Hambantota District and 100,000 doses each of the Sinopharm vaccine would be allocated to the Puttalam, Polonnaruwa, Nuwara Eliya, Monaragala, Ampara, and Trincomalee Districts.

According to Director General of Health Services (DGHS) Dr. Asela Gunawardena, 90,000

doses of the Pfizer vaccine are due to arrive tomorrow (26) and these vaccines would be

administered as a second dose to the people of the Mannar and Puttalam Districts, The Sunday Morning learnt.

In addition to that, the country is also to receive another 1.6 million doses of the Sinopharm

vaccine tomorrow as a donation.

Furthermore, Dr. Gunawardena noted that approximately 600,000 people that had been

inoculated with the first dose of the AstraZeneca vaccine are yet to receive their second dose.

Meanwhile,Sri Lanka is also expected to receive 1.47 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine in the final week of July, as a donation from Japan, and the vaccine doses are intended to be administered as the second dose to those who have received the first dose of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine, The Sunday Morning learnt.

Sinopharm effective against Delta variant

A recent study conducted by the Department of Immunology and Molecular Medicine and the Allergy, Immunology, and Cell Biology Unit of the University of Sri Jayewardenepura, together with Oxford University in England, has revealed that the Sinopharm vaccine is highly effective against the Delta variant of the Covid-19 virus.

As per the study, the vaccine had triggered an immune response in over 95% of individuals who had received both doses of the vaccine, The Sunday Morning learnt.

The research, led by Department of Immunology and Molecular Medicine Professor in Microbiology Prof. Neelika Malavige and Allergy, Immunology, and Cell Biology Unit Director Dr. Chandima Jeewandara, found that those between the ages of 20 and 39 developed antibodies at a rate of 98.9%, while those above 60 years developed antibodies at a rate of 93.3%.

According to Dr. Jeewandara, samples of 323 people from within the city of Colombo had been collected prior to being inoculated, and following the vaccination process, they had obtained blood samples sporadically.

Likewise, blood samples had been obtained for a period of six weeks to assess the immunisation process and the Sinopharm vaccine had resulted in a 95% efficacy rate.

Furthermore, he elaborated that the efficacy rate is highly satisfactory: 81.25% of people who were inoculated with the Sinopharm vaccine generated neutralising antibodies, which is similar to the antibodies generated within those who contract the Covid-19 virus naturally.