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Infectious Diseases Forum alleges bungling in ongoing vaccination

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“Whole purpose would be lost and vaccination would have been in vain”

In a statement on “maldistribution of Covid 19 vaccine,” the Vaccine and Infectious Diseases Forum of Sri Lanka, last week warned that if the elderly are not vaccinated, the entire purpose of the COVID vaccination program would have been in vain.

Dr. H. T. Wickramasinghe, President of the Forum said in this connection that “Saving lives is of paramount importance” and that the Health Ministry decision not to give the vaccine to people between the ages of 30-59-years was “meaningless.”

The Forum said in a statement that it appreciated the decision made by the Government to buy nine million doses of Covisheild vaccine from Serum Institute of India to be given to Sri Lankan citizens.

“We noted that 500,000 doses gifted to us by India have been given to healthcare workers and social workers involved in the care of the COVID patients and contacts. We also have observed that the remaining vaccines have been distributed to many MOH areas to be given to adults between 30 years to 59 years of age.

“Our opinion, and the opinion of WHO is entirely different. According to the WHO protocol, the first priority is given to the healthcare workers and the next priority is given to people over 65 years and people with co-morbid features. Countries such as Israel has vaccinated elderly over 65 years and people with co-morbid features first, before giving the vaccine to healthcare workers.

“The reason was to bring down the mortality. In fact, Israel has seen the results within three weeks with a significant reduction of deaths. New Zealand has decided to follow Israel by giving the vaccine first to the elderly. before giving to healthcare workers.”

Stressing that the primary purpose of the vaccination is to avert deaths, the Forum said its efficacy ranges from 70-84%, signifying a possibility of getting COVID 19 infection despite vaccination. But with AstraZeneca vaccine (Covishield), it is observed that the mortality reduction is almost 100%.

“That is the primary aim of this vaccine programme. However, the Ministry decision to give the remaining vaccines to public between 30-59 years is meaningless. It does not avert deaths among elderly. The basis of this decision by the Ministry of Health is not clear. The number of doses left would be only two to three hundred thousand. With such a limited number of vaccine doses, how could a population of Sri Lankans aged between 30 -59 years be protected?

“In fact, this limited number of doses, should have been given to people over 65 years of age. That would have averted a significant number of deaths due to COVID 19.”

The statement said there is suspicion growing among public, which is unavoidable and excusable. The decision to give the vaccine for 30-59 years old, has created a wrong impression among public that the vaccine should not be given to elderly over 60 years, as it is unsafe. We have heard that it is already happening and people may become reluctant to give the vaccine to elderly.

“When the new consignment of vaccines is available for elderly people, it may become difficult to convince the public that the vaccine is safe for the elderly. They might ask, ‘Then why didn’t you give the vaccine to elderly last time.’ We hope that the Ministry would come out with a convincing answer.

“Saving lives is of paramount importance. Therefore, if elderly are not vaccinated, the entire purpose of the COVID vaccination program would have been in vain.”

 

 



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SL gets Rs 452 mn for saving ill-fated tanker: Rs. 3.4 bn asked for

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By Ifham Nizam and Rathindra Kuruwita

The Marine Enviro-nment Protection Authority (MEPA) yesterday received Rs. 452 million from London for having saved MT New Diamond, a super oil tanker that caught fire in the Sri Lanka’s territorial waters last year.

MEPA General Manager, Dr. P. B. Terney Pradeep Kumara told The Island that Rs. 442 million had come for the services rendered by the Sri Lanka Navy, MEPA and Rs. 10 million by way of a fine imposed on the Ship’s Captain.

However, Sri Lanka has to receive a much larger amount for the damage caused to the marine environment, Dr. Kumara said. Following the incident, Sri Lankan authorities filed charges against the Captain of the ill-fated vessel and made a claim for $2.4 million from the ship’s owners for the firefighting and pollution prevention efforts.

Twenty experts from the Universities of Moratuwa, Ruhuna and Sri Jayewardenepura submitted their recommendations as regards the damage to the environment, to the Attorney General. Based on the report, the Attorney General’s Department had asked for Rs. 3.4 billion (around USD 19 million) as compensation for environmental damage, the Coordinating Officer for the Attorney General, state counsel Nishara Jayaratne said.

Soon they would have discussions with the lawyers of the shipping agent concerned on compensation for environmental damage caused, she said.

Dr. Kumara, who is the former Head of the Department of Oceanography/Marine Geology of the Ruhuna University, said that the incident had caused deaths among marine species due to spillage of some toxic fuel from the vessel.

The MT New Diamond crude oil tanker was transporting 270,000 MT oil from the port of Meena Al Ahmadi in Kuwait to the Port of Paradip in India when a fire broke out in its engine room as the vessel was passing the eastern seas of Sri Lanka on September 3, 2020.

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PSC on gender equality meets for the first time

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State Minister, Fernandopulle flanked by two other PSC members

Special attention on microfinance

The Parliamentary Select Committee appointed to further gender equality, to investigate instances of discrimination against women and to present recommendations to Parliament, focused on microfinance loans that are currently affecting a large number of women in Sri Lanka, when they met for the first time in Parliament recently.

The meeting was chaired by the State Minister of Primary Health Care, Epidemics and COVID-19 Disease Control Dr. Sudarshini Fernandopulle.

It was also revealed that the Cabinet had approved the re-establishment of an institution to regulate Microfinance loans in Sri Lanka.

The MPs also discussed the role of the Select Committee. They decided that the primary role of the Committee should be to investigate women’s grievances and all forms of discrimination based on gender, including workplace violence.

Another task before this committee is to examine and review laws that can be used to enhance gender equality, encourage relevant ministries and authorities to formulate plans to further gender equality and to allocate financial resources.

The Committee will also try to encourage greater women’s representation in decision-making bodies at the national and provincial levels as well as in government, civil society and the private sector.

MPs Rohini Kaviratne, (Dr.) Harini Amarasuriya, M. Udayakumar, S. Sritharan, Rohana Bandara and the Secretary to the Committee, Deputy Secretary General and Chief of Staff of the Parliament Kushani Rohanadheera were also present at the meeting.

 

 

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A/L Examination from October 04 to 30

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The 2021 GCE Advanced Level examination would be held from October 4 to 30, Education Minister Prof. G.L. Peiris said yesterday addressing the media at his Ministry.

Minister Peiris said the examination was earlier scheduled to be held in August.

The Grade 5 scholarship examination would be held on October 03 and the 2021 GCE Ordinary Level (O/L) examination in the last week of January 2022, the Minister said.

“Usually, schools are open for academic activities for around 200 days a year. But in 2020, schools were open for about 150 days. It was around 130 days in the Western Province. We were not able to fill this gap with online classes due to lack of internet facilities in many parts of the country,” he said.

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