‘Give young people opportunity to choose desired jab’
By Shamindra Ferdinando
President of the College of Medical Laboratory Science Ravi Kumudesh offered conditional backing for making Covid-19 vaccine mandatory.
One of the strongest critics of the government’s response to the unprecedented health emergency, Kumudesh told The Island that such a move couldn’t be accepted unless the government ensured the public had an opportunity to receive the desired vaccine.
Sri Lanka launched the vaccination drive on January 29th, within 24 hours after receiving 500,000 Covishield doses from India.
The Island raised the contentious issue of mandatory vaccination in the wake of several persons, including Justice Minister Ali Sabry, Covid -19 control State Minister Dr. Sudarshini Fernandopulle and former Chairperson of the Human Rights Commission Dr. Deepika Udagama declaring their support for making vaccination mandatory to counter the pandemic.
The civil society activist emphasised that the government shouldn’t expect the public to accept whatever offered at the vaccination centres. “Let the people make a choice. Give them an opportunity to decide on the vaccine,” Kumudesh said, strongly opposing the moves to restrict the movements of those so far unvaccinated.
Kumudesh was responding to a recent announcement that those 30 and above would be subjected to routine checks beginning Sept 15 to ensure they received vaccination.
Asked whether the College of Medical Laboratory Science would accept making vaccination mandatory on the basis of those having compelling medical reasons given the opportunity to shun it, Kumudesh emphasized the two issues shouldn’t be mixed. He asked whether it would be fair to deprive those seeking opportunities in the US, Europe and other parts of the world by inoculating them with Sinopharm. “Regardless of our stand on Sinopharm, some countries do not recognize Chinese vaccines. Therefore, those seeking opportunities in some selected countries are reluctant to take the Chinese jab,” Kumudesh said. They shouldn’t be penalised by the government, the trade union activist said.
Kumudesh explained that the government should make a serious effort at least now to make available sufficient Sinopharm, AstraZeneca (Covishield), Modena, Pfizer and Sputnik for the targeted groups to choose from. Declaring that Sri Lankans seeking opportunities in the US, Europe and other selected areas preferred vaccines that had received WHO endorsement, Kumudesh said that Sinopharm received only emergency approval.
Responding to another query, Kumudesh said that he received the AZ vaccine that was obtained from India.
Referring to plans to inoculate those under 30 including the student community, Kumudesh urged the government not to disappoint them. “Please give them an opportunity to receive a vaccine of their choice. Take into consideration their future,” Kumudesh said.
He faulted the government for not taking tangible measures to procure Pfizer against the backdrop of the disruption of AZ supplies from India due to massive eruption of Covid-19 cases there. Having claimed that Sri Lanka lacked basic facilities required to acquire Pfizer, State Minister of Production, Supply, and Regulation of Pharmaceuticals Prof. Channa Jayasumana later accepted it. The government’s action proved their own argument wrong, Kumudesh said, urging the government to review the entire vaccination process.
Commenting on the inordinate delay in using Sinopharm after receiving stock of 600,000 doses from China, Kumudesh alleged that the government foolishly claimed of a conspiracy. What really happened was at the time Sri Lanka took delivery of a free consignment of Sinopharm it hadn’t received the WHO approval. China delivered the vaccine stock on March 30. Sri Lanka included Sinopharm in the vaccine rollout on May 8 after both WHO and the National Medicines Regulatory Authority (NMRA) approved the emergency use of Chinese vaccine, Kumudesh said.
The lab technologist said that the government could have handled the situation so much better if it consulted all stakeholders. Unfortunately, the government responded to the crisis, arrogantly, Kumudesh claimed, flaying the powers that be for declaring victory over the epidemic at an early phase of the struggle.
The government couldn’t achieve the desired results by declaring lockdowns unless a cohesive action plan was put in place to contain the fast spreading of Covid-19, he said.
Central Bank urged to save collapsing local industries
The National Freedom Front (NFF) has requested the immediate intervention of the Governor of the Central Bank Ajith Nivard Cabraal to save micro, small and medium scale industries badly affected by the current economic downturn caused by the Covid-19.
The NFF parliamentary group comprises six members, including one National List.
Industries Minister Wimal Weerawansa, on behalf of the SLPP constituent parties, has warned of steep increase in unemployment, drop in the contribution made by small and medium scale industries to the national economy and the further widening of the gap between the rich and poor.
Party sources told The Island that the NFF had decided to take up the urgent matter because, in spite of repeated promises, those who had been severely affected were yet to receive assistance. Minister Weerawansa has urged the Central Bank to restructure loans obtained by affected industries and also extend the moratorium.
Weerawansa has in a letter dated Oct.18, told Cabraal that according to a survey conducted by the Industrial Development Board, micro, small and medium enterprises suffered serious setbacks. However, of the loans made available through the banking sector, a substantial segment had been disbursed among major players, the Minister said, while pointing out that in other countries in the region more than 50 percent of total loans were made available to micro, small and medium industries.
Unfortunately, here in Sri Lanka they received approximately 15 percent of the total given as loans, the minister said.
Minister Weerawansa said that though industries suffered, almost all state and private banks had recorded much improved performances with significant profits.
The Minister said that following his intervention with the cabinet of ministers, the government agreed on a plan of action to deal with the situation. It would be the responsibility of the Central Bank to implement the agreed proposals, he said.
So far no side effects among Pfizer vaccinated 15,000 A/L students
By Rathindra Kuruwita
Over 15,000 GCE AL students had been vaccinated with Pfizer and there had not been any side effects, Colombo District Director of Health Dr. Dilip Liyanage told the media yesterday.
He said that the Ministry of Education had given them a list of 20,688 that needed to be vaccinated.
“We would like to assure parents that there is no need to worry. Over 15,000 children have been vaccinated and there have been no problems so far. Trust the health professionals and vaccinate your child at the first opportunity you get,” he said.
Dr. Liyanage added that children who missed their chance to get vaccinated on weekdays, can get vaccinated at the MOH office near their home.
Govt. approves prohibition of cattle slaughter
The government has approved the prohibition of cattle slaughter. The decision was announced at the weekly Cabinet meeting at the Information Department yesterday (19). The government said the relevant laws and regulations, including those passed by Local Government authorities would be amended for that purpse.
The Legal Draftsman has drafted Bills to amend the following acts and ordinances.
• Authority 272 of the Cattle Slaughter Ordinance No. 9 of 1893
• Act No. 29 of 1958 Concerning Animals
• Municipal Councils Ordinance – Section 252
• Section 255 of the Municipal Councils Ordinance
• Ordinance No. 15 of the Urban Council Act of 1987
The Attorney General has certified that the said Bills do not clash with the provisions of the Constitution.
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