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Jayasumana explains how AZ use can be maximised



By Shamindra Ferdinando

State Minister of Pharmaceutical Production, Supply and Regulation Prof. Channa Jayasumana says those tasked with the inoculation drive managed to immunise a higher number of persons than expected by withdrawing and administering accurate vaccine doses in the multi-dose phials.

The WHO says that in multi-dose phials, there can be a difference between the number of doses stated on their labels and the actual number of doses that can be withdrawn. “The true number of doses available from a multi-dose phial will depend on several factors such as syringe dead space, phial overfill volume, and technique and accuracy of doses withdrawn and delivered.”

Prof. Jaysumana said so in response to The Island query how the health administration inoculated 1,301,026 by June 29, 8.30 pm having received 1,264,000 AstraZeneca (Covishield) doses. We raised the issue at hand on the basis of figures pertaining to the ongoing vaccination drive made available by the Epidemiology Unit of the Health Ministry on June 29.

Prof. Jayasumana said that AstraZeneca vaccine was received in bottles – each prescribed to inoculate 10 persons (ml .5 each) though 12 could be immunized due to the availability of an additional 1ml in each bottle.

“We instructed inoculation of 11 persons though initially one phial was used for 10 persons. Some pointed out the waste and instructions were issued immediately to remedy the situation,” Prof. Jayasumana said, adding that an experienced person can comfortably use one bottle to vaccinate 12 persons.

Sri Lanka received the first consignment of 500,000 Covishield doses from Serum Institute, Pune on January 28 courtesy the government of India. The second batch also comprising 500,000 doses was received on Feb 25 in terms of an agreement between the State Pharmaceuticals Corporation (SPC) of Sri Lanka and the Serum Institute of India.

Pointing out that inoculation drive commenced on January 29, the day after Sri Lanka received the first consignment, Prof. Jayasumana said that the third consignment consisting 264,000 doses was received on March 7 through the COVAX facility. Altogether, Sri Lanka received 1,264,000 Covishield doses, Prof. Jayasumana said, adding that if not for the unfortunate breakdown of supply line due to sudden eruption of Covid-19 pandemic in India, there would have been a steady supply of AstraZeneca.

According to WHO statement issued on March 7, Sri Lanka was to receive 1,440,000 doses by end of May. The WHO is on record as having said that additional doses to cover 20% of Sri Lanka’s population were to be delivered in the second half of 2021. COVAX doses are donor-funded and provided at no cost to Sri Lanka. In terms of COVAX’s commitment, Sri Lanka was to receive 8.4 million vaccine doses to cover 20% of the population, according to the WHO.

According to the Epidemiology Unit, 925,242 persons received AstraZeneca in January (59,426), February (406,924), March (453,403) and April (5,489). They received the second dose beginning April and by June 29 altogether 375,784 got the second jab. Prof. Jayasumana said that 37,026 had been given the second dose by saving on available Covishield.

The Epidemiology Unit stated that as at June 29, Sinopharm first and the second doses had been given to 1,657,741 and 605,116 persons, respectively whereas 114,795 and 14,425 received Sputnik first and second jabs.

Asked whether Sinopharm and Sputnik now used here in the inoculation drive could provide extra doses, Prof Jayasumana explained Sinopharm phial could be used for two vaccines and the Russian product for one person.

Prof. Jayasumana acknowledged that the vaccination drive had been marred by several incidents, such as the Galle incident where over 400 persons from Colombo received the jab on two days in violation of specific guidelines laid down in that regard. The matter was now before courts, Prof. Jayasumana said, adding that jumping the vaccination queue couldn’t be accepted under any circumstances.

Once Sri Lanka received the first consignment of Pfizer, probably on July 5 and Moderna much later, altogether five Covid-19 vaccines would be in use in Sri Lanka, in addition to Sinovac COVID-19 vaccine, too, scheduled to have a share in the vaccine market, Prof. Jayasumana said.



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Appointment of GM led to CEB chief’s resignation?



By Ifham Nizam

Amidst further deterioration of the power crisis, the Chairman of the Ceylon Electricity Board (CEB) M.M.C. Ferdinando has tendered his resignation to President Gotabaya Rajapaksa.

In a letter to the President, the Attorney-at-Law said that he is quitting due to personal reasons. Ferdinando will resign as Chairman/Member of the Electricity Board with effect from Feb. 1.

Sources close to Ferdinando said that the incumbent CEB Chairman did not want to be in that position following the appointment of Eng. Dr. D.C.R. Abeysekera as CEB General Manager. Abeysekera received his letter of appointment from Ferdinando on Tuesday (25).

Abeysekera received the appointment at the expense of Dr. Susantha Perera, whose designation as the GM on a temporary basis was resisted by the engineers’ union as he is a retiree.

Retired public servant Ferdinando was brought in as the CEB Chairman on July 19, last year soon after Sri Lanka entered into what was called a framework agreement with the US energy firm, New Fortress Energy. The agreement now challenged in the Supreme Court was finalised on 17 Sept, last year with Ferdinando endorsing it as an Advisor to the Finance Ministry.

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UK indicates sanctions against Lanka military



By Shamindra Ferdinnado

Close on the heels of UK Foreign Minister Lord Tariq Ahmad’s three-day visit here, the House of Commons has been told that measures were being contemplated as regards the Sri Lankan military.

Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) Minister Amanda Milling has told Parliament that the government regularly engaged with the US and other partners on issues relating to Sri Lanka. She has further said: “The UK government keeps all evidence and potential designations under the UK Global Human Rights sanctions regime under close review, guided by the objectives of the sanctions regime. We would not normally speculate about future sanctions targets, as to do so could reduce their impact.”

The Conservative Party member was responding to Labour Party’s Siobhain McDonagh on Tuesday (25). MP Milling was responding to a query McDonagh posed to the Secretary of State for Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Affairs Elizabeth Truss, what assessment she has made of the implications for her policies of the sanctions imposed by the US on General Shavendra Silva of the Sri Lankan army.

The US in Feb 2020 imposed a travel ban on General Silva, who is also the Chief of Defence Staff (CDS). Recently, the US extended its action against the Sri Lankan military by issuing travel ban on retired Maj. Gen. Udaya Perera.

The UK based Global Tamil Forum (GTF) has commended the British stand.

Concerned Lankan military sources said that the UK in its capacity as the leader of Sri Lanka Core Group at the Geneva-based Human Rights Council (UNHRC) was planning further measures ahead of the next human rights sessions.

UK based sources told The Island that that type of written parliamentary question was usually answered by a government minister from the FCDO.

Sources explained as this particular question dealt with Sri Lanka, the minister responsible was Lord Tariq Ahmad, but as he represented the House of Lords he couldn’t make statements in the Commons chamber.

Sources added that it would be rare that a question on Sri Lanka would be directly responded to by the Foreign Secretary Truss

Commons member Amanda Milling is Minister of State for Asia, therefore her portfolio closely matches Tariq Ahmad’s brief.

Incidentally, the FCDO now has a British Tamil in a senior position. Maya Sivagnanam is South Asia Deputy Director for the Indian Ocean Region at the FCDO.

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JCPSM token strike cripples hospitals in Western Province



Strikers want Health Ministry to solve their problems within 10 days

By Rathindra Kuruwita

The Joint Council of Professions Supplementary to Medicine (JCPSM) launched a 24-hour token strike yesterday (26) at 7 am at all hospitals in the Western Province. It consists of 16 unions.

The JCPSM has urged the government to address its members’s grievances including salary anomalies and issues related promotions. The strike had crippled hospitals in the province, Health Ministry sources said.

The JCPSM said emergency care, essential services and the treatment of COVID patients had not been affected by the strike.

President of the Government Nurses’ Association and former UNP National List MP Saman Rathnapriya said they had been urging the government to solve their problems for the past two months.

The College of Medical Laboratory Science (CMLS) President, Ravi Kumudesh told The Island that they would end the token strike by 7 am today m(27) and thereafter give the government 10 days to address their demands.

“We will launch a continuous strike if the demands are not met within 10 days,” he said.

President of the Government Medical Officers’ Forum (GMOF) Dr. Rukshan Bellana said that most unions seemed to have lost the ability to solve disputes through negotiations.

“The unions have become too politicised, and the people are suffering as a result.”

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