The Government will hold discussions about a vaccine candidate suitable for Sri Lanka in the next few days and provide information by the end of next week, chief advisor to President, Lalith Weeratunga said.
Weeratunga has been tasked with coordinating with concerned parties and countries to select a vaccine to be used in Sri Lanka. He will look into areas including countries developing vaccines, their efficacy and how safe they are, the cost to be borne by the country and most importantly how to bring the vaccines down.
He will advise the Government on who should be vaccinated under the first phase.
Weeratunga was entrusted with the task by President Gotabaya Rajapaksa at the Covid 19 Task Force co-group meeting on Tuesday (22). The core-group is headed by the Health Minister and also comprises the Health Services Director General.
“I have to talk to various sources. I am doing that now. That will take 4-5 days and with the impending holidays the officials at embassies are not working,” Weeratunga said on why the task will take some time.
Covid-19 vaccines are developed in various countries and the Government is studying the vaccines in-depth to select one that is best suited for Sri Lanka. However, medical officials have warned of possible side effects of administering a vaccine to a large population.
State Minister of Primary Health Care, Epidemics and Covid-19 Control, Dr. Sudarshani Fernandopulle said frontline workers, people over 60 and those with comorbidities will be given priority under the first phase when a vaccine is rolled out in Sri Lanka.
The United Nations has assured Sri Lanka its support in procuring, distributing and administering the vaccine against Covid-19, a media release issued by the Prime Minister’s office stated.
This pledge was made on Tuesday (22) during a meeting between Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa and a UN delegation consisting of UN Resident Coordinator Hanaa Singer, WHO Representative Dr. Razia Pendse and UNICEF Representative Tim Sutton.
“We are fully committed to support Sri Lanka in these challenging times,” Singer said.
The UN delegation and Sri Lankan officials agreed that vaccination of such a mass scale will need a whole-of-Government approach to ensure Sri Lanka’s preparedness for the delivery and its administering.
“In many countries, we are witnessing a dangerous second wave of Covid-19,” Prime Minister Rajapaksa said. “It seems vaccines will be the only means that can bring an end to this pandemic.”
The statement added in April this year, a global collaboration called “Access to Covid-19 Tools ACT-Accelerator” was established “to accelerate the development, production, and equitable access to Covid-19 diagnostics, therapeutics, and vaccines.”
The “COVAX Facility” will offer vaccine doses for at least 20 percent of eligible countries’ population, initially consisting of high-risk groups under this program.