Jaffna-based journalist passes away from Covid

  • Was unable to receive vaccine due to existing condition

By Dinitha Rathnayake

Jaffna-based journalist Pragas Gnanapragasam passed away due to Covid-19 on 2 September, at the age of 26.

A day earlier, he had stated on Twitter that he tested positive for the virus, adding that he had not been allowed to take the vaccine due to the fact that he was suffering from a condition known as muscular dystrophy.

“I tested positive for Covid 19 today after five days fever. Now health normally good, I muscular dystrophy patient, but so far not vaccinated me (sic),” he had stated.

On the same day, when he was asked on Twitter why he did not get the jab earlier, he responded by saying the local health authorities refused to vaccinate him, noting: “Yes, but they saw me as muscular dystrophy patient, my father asking to the MOH office, but they checked my medical reports and told can’t vaccine (sic).”

Muscular dystrophy comprises a group of inherited genetic conditions that gradually cause the muscles to weaken, leading to an increasing level of disability. It is a progressive condition, which means it gets worse over time.

According to health authorities, Gnanapragasam was receiving treatment at Chavakachcheri Hospital when he passed away. When asked why he was not vaccinated, the Jaffna health authorities stated that they could not deviate from the Ministry of Health protocols in the vaccination process, and so could not afford Gnanapragasam the vaccine at the time.

When inquired about the issue, Public Health Services Deputy Director General Dr. Hemantha Herath stated that he could not comment on the situation as he did not know the full details of the situation.

However, he added, patients suffering from other conditions such as muscular dystrophy would generally need to be vaccinated at a location that is equipped to provide emergency facilities, noting: “These patients need emergency support so they cannot be vaccinated in a field centre.”

Gnanapragasam was well-known in international circles – especially amongst the Tamil community – for his work, and the news of his passing was met with an outpouring of tributes from around the world. In 2009, he was awarded the Raviraj Memorial Award in recognition of his contribution to Society for Integration Activities Through Social Media for his journalism.