‘Vaccination problems due to short supply, high demand’

  • Health Ministry to probe/mitigate vaccination cock-ups

By Buddhika Samaraweera and Dinitha Rathnayake


The Ministry of Health has attributed the numerous irregularities seen in the national vaccination drive so far, such as the lack of adherence to priority lists, to the high demand for vaccines and the limited supply of them.

When contacted by The Morning to inquire into these irregularities, the Health Ministry’s Communications Director, Public Health Services Deputy Director General, and Disaster Preparedness and Response Division Head Dr. Hemantha Herath said that in the backdrop of the rapid spread of the pandemic, the demand for anti Covid-19 vaccines is increasing and that therefore, certain irregularities may occur as a result.

“Problems that have been reported with regard to the anti Covid-19 vaccines have not been reported in the case of vaccines for other diseases. The short supply of anti-Covid-19 vaccines and the increasing demand for them have led to these irregularities,” he added.

Dr. Herath said that the recent incident where a group of individuals from Colombo in the Western Province had travelled to Galle to receive the second dose of the Oxford AstraZeneca Covishield vaccine, despite the island-wide travel restrictions in place, is an example of such irregularities. He added that the Health Ministry-led authorities would look into such incidents and take necessary action.

The Regional Director of Health Services (RDHS) and the Regional Epidemiologist of the Galle District were recently transferred over the incident of administering Covishield vaccines to those who came from the Western Province, in a vaccination programme conducted in Unawatuna in Galle. The transfer of the RDHS and the Regional Epidemiologist due to violating the quarantine regulations and vaccinating people from outside the Galle District is a temporary move, noted Dr. Herath. The Health Ministry has launched an investigation into the irregularities during this vaccination program in Galle.

Passengers in over 100 vehicles from the Western Province were reported to have travelled to the Galle District on 7 June to obtain the second dose of Covishield via a vaccination drive that had been organized at the office of the District Director of Health Services in Unawatuna, Galle. The vehicles were reported to have crossed provinces at a time when island-wide travel restrictions have been enforced in the country in a bid to curtail the spread of the third wave of the Covid-19 pandemic. The Production, Supply and Regulation of Pharmaceuticals Minister Prof. Channa Jayasumana had also raised the matter in Parliament.

However, commenting on the incident, Dr. Herath said that when a public official is charged with a certain wrongdoing, investigations could not be carried out within a short period of time, reiterating that the two said officials have since been transferred until the investigations into the incident are completed.

“Even if they are actually guilty, it should be investigated and this will take some time. If the matter is to be investigated and action is to be taken sooner, those against whom the allegations are levelled, are more likely to escape the law, and therefore, the relevant authorities would take necessary decisions regarding them once the relevant investigations are completed,” he mentioned. 

Although there may be some irregularities in the administration of anti-Covid-19 vaccines in the current situation which has arisen due to the rapid spread of the Covid-19 pandemic, the relevant institutions, including the Health Ministry, are taking steps to properly investigate all reported cases and to prevent such incidents from recurring, Health Ministry sources claimed.