No serious side effects reported so far | Daily News
Over 700,000 Sri Lankans receive AstraZeneca jab:

No serious side effects reported so far

Over 700,000 Sri Lankans have received the AstraZeneca jab also known as Covishield as of yesterday. However no serious side effects or fatalities have been reported so far despite the fear over immunizations, epidemiologist Dr. Samitha Ginige told a media briefing.

Dr. Ginige was speaking at the first ever media dialogue hosted by the Media Centre for National Development (MCND) which was held yesterday at the Government Information Department.

“The side effects in keeping with what is common for any vaccine are to be expected post-inoculation. There are zero reported fatal casualties as a direct result of the vaccine,” he said.

He added the data from the Epidemiology Unit suggests that there could be a correlation between the decline in COVID-19 cases and the rise in numbers that have been vaccinated. However, it is too early to confirm because it cannot be proven.

“The monitoring process stringently collates data on every positive testing of COVID-19 vaccinated citizens and follow up on the situation,” he said. When asked of the optimal time frame to receive the second dose of the vaccine he recommended that according to data, the optimal window to receive the second dose is 10-12 weeks after the first. This method has been adopted in several countries.

Meanwhile Senior Advisor to President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, Lalith Weeratunga who also spoke on the panel said that money was the least concern of the Government and that the vaccination programme has been facilitated by friendly countries, the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank on account of the humanitarian need. “Currently, it costs approx Rs.1000 per person but an existing Treasury Fund is being utilised,” Lalith Weeratunga said. When questioned on an alleged list of individuals who were supposedly deemed as being Very Important Persons, he dismissed the allegation adding that every Grama Niladhari Divisional Secretariat which serves the public is a VIP centre for the Government. “There are no VIP centres or lists, everyone is important to us. For non-senior citizens, the distribution of the vaccine is on a first come, first served basis and no partiality will be shown in its dispensation.”

He also added the President reaffirms his gratitude to Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the Indian Government for the Astra Zeneca vaccine, of which the supply has enabled the immunization of 700,000 citizens.

Secretary to the Ministry of Health Major General Sanjeewa Munasinghe added that the Government does not intend to privatise the issuance of vaccines in Sri Lanka. He further said that in an effort to reduce confusion, a different brand of vaccine will be given to a different district or province.

When inquired over the discrepancy of the age, it was mentioned by the panel that the manufacturers of the vaccine stressed that it has been created for those aged 18 and over.

“The Government will abide by that guideline. The second criterion is that demand is outweighing supply. Nationally stemming the spread of the COVID-19 is a key factor in determining candidates,” Dr. Ginige said.

The panelists agreed that vaccination of the workforce and making international travel safe will jumpstart and revive the economy. Making that a status quo is the driving goal of the Government in this venture.

In response to a question raised regarding international travel, the expert panel confirmed that the vaccine will still not deter the quarantine process that is in place right now as per WHO regulations.

For senior citizens above the age of 60, the panelists said that the Government will earmark specific days so as to afford them every convenience of the vaccination process. Transport will be provided wherever needed to facilitate this.

The President has also reached out to both Russia (Sputnik V) and China (Sinovac and Sinopharm) via diplomatic channels for the purchase of vaccines. “The efficacy of each vaccine will be of paramount importance and only vaccines that have been proven and internationally accepted will be procured,” Weeratunga said.

All three panelists at the Cyber Conference reiterated the importance of measures such as social distancing and wearing a mask even for inoculated persons.