Green light for vaccinating 15-19-year-olds 

BY Pamodi Waravita

The Advisory Committee on Communicable Diseases (ACCD) has recommended the vaccination of children and youth between the ages of 15 and 19 years with the first dose being given from the US-German-made Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine, and the administration of the second dose to be decided based on necessity. The vaccination process for this age group, it is learnt, is to hopefully commence within the next two weeks. 

Sri Lanka College of Internal Medicine President and ACCD Member Dr. Harsha Sathischandra said yesterday (6) that the Advisory Committee had made its recommendations about the vaccination process for children between the ages of 15 and 19 years to the Health Ministry and that they hope that the process will begin within the next two weeks.

“The vaccination of children between the ages of 12 and 19 years with co-morbidities is progressing steadily. Since it was implemented successfully, our committee was able to decide on the next phase as our next immediate concern is the vaccination of children between the ages of 15 and 19 years. It is necessary to vaccinate them as the virus affects all age groups and we have so far been unable to open schools. Thus, we have proposed that the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine be given as the first dose to this age category at all national hospitals and medical officer of health (MOH) clinics. The second dose will then be decided as necessary. We have recommended that it not be given at schools,” said Dr. Sathischandra at a press conference held at the Health Promotion Bureau (HPB) yesterday.

He explained that children who receive the vaccine will be monitored for 30 minutes by health professionals at the vaccination sites.

“Rarely, we may observe certain symptoms such as fever and headache, a few hours after the vaccine is administered. If they are observed, only must the child take paracetamol. There is no need to take paracetamol before they go to get the vaccination,” he added. 

Speaking at the same press conference, Sri Lanka College of Paediatricians President Prof. Shaman Rajindrajith said that they have observed a fortunate decrease in Covid-19-related admissions to the Lady Ridgeway Hospital for Children (LRH) and that the LRH has therefore been able to use some of its wards previously allocated solely for Covid-19-related matters for other normal duties.

“Within the next two weeks, all children with comorbidities between the ages of 12 and 19 years will be vaccinated with one dose,” he added.

Meanwhile, the provincial governors have decided to reopen the primary sections of schools coming under the purview of provincial councils (PCs) and with less than 200 students from 21 October.

Commenting on the reopening of schools that is due to take place in the next two months, Health Ministry Deputy Director General of Health Services (DDGHS) Dr. Susie H. Perera stressed that mask-wearing etiquette and the use of masks throughout the duration of the school day, by both teachers and children, is necessary. She added that teachers must be responsible in their vigilance to ensure that children wear masks at all times, especially during their interactions with other children.

Health Ministry Communications Director, Public Health Services Deputy Director General, and Disaster Preparedness and Response Division Head Dr. Hemantha Herath also said that previous mistakes must not be repeated, and that even in a fully vaccinated society, the new normal is to strictly adhere to all health guidelines and to continue to wear masks.