Connect with us


WHO extends time for booster shot, raises hope for AZ jab recipients



Prof. CJ explains how combination of three vaccines was used to address problem 

By Shamindra Ferdinando

Those who have missed Oxford AstraZeneca (Covishield) second jab so far are unlikely to get theirs before the originally stipulated period to ensure the best effect of the vaccine.

Various government spokespersons, including Senior Presidential Advisor Lalith Weeratunga  are on record as having said that the second jab should be administered between 12 to 16 weeks to maximise protection against new variants of coronavirus.

However, State Minister of Pharmaceutical Production, Supply and Regulation Prof Channa Jayasumana yesterday (24) said subsequently the WHO had determined that the second jab could be given in 24 weeks (six months).

Prof. Jayasumana said that though the original deadline couldn’t be met due to the disruption to the supply line, the time and space provided by the latest WHO technical paper would give the government an opportunity to complete the inoculation of those who earlier received Covishield first jab.

Prof. Jayasumana said so in response to The Island queries.

Asked how the government intended to ensure the second jab for approximately 570,000 before the expiring of the new deadline, Prof Jayasumana said that in addition to 264,000 covishield promised through the Covax programme in the second week of July, Sri Lanka would take delivery of 26,000 Pfizer vaccines doses on July 5, 12 and 19 and the remaining requirement would be met through US donation of Covid-19 vaccines, probably Moderna. “If everything goes as expected, the issue of Covishield second jab can be settled by end of July,” Prof Jayasumana said.

According to the State Minister, the WHO has said the second dose could be given after 20 weeks though previously it was 16 weeks. According to WHO technical study dated May 26, 2021. “The uncertainty of future supplies has prompted countries to review policy and programmatic implications, as providing the second dose of the vaccine within the WHO recommended 8-12-week schedule may not be feasible in the near future,” according to the WHO study.

The Island sought an explanation from Prof. Neelika Malavige, who is also the Head, Department of Immunology and Molecular Medicine at the Sri Jayewardenepura University Medical Faculty, what would happen if the deadline couldn’t be met. Prof. Malavige said that a slight delay wouldn’t be an issue but in the absence of required data she couldn’t comment on much delayed inoculation and what its impact would be.

Referring to available foreign research data, Prof. Malavige said having the second dose was essential to guarantee the best effect of the vaccine, and in particular to maximise protection against new variants.

Director General of Health Services (DGHS) Dr. Asela Gunawardena didn’t answer his mobile phone and therefore the response of the senior most official responsible for Covid-19 counter-measures to the plight of nearly 600,000 persons awaiting the second jab couldn’t be obtained.

Prof. Malavige pointed out that against the backdrop of sharp increase in the cases of the Delta variant, in some parts of the world the administration of the second dose had been advanced. According to the Office of  Health Ministry’s Chief Epidemiologist as at 8pm, June 22, 2021, altogether 372,675 had received the booster shot whereas 925,242 got the first dose during January-April 2021. The report revealed that on June 20, 21 and 22, the covishield second dose had been given to  252, 132 and  385 persons.

Sri Lanka received altogether three stocks of Covishield consisting 1,264,000 from Serum Institute, Pune beginning January 28, 2021. Of them, India and Covax donated 500,000 and  264,000, respectively. Sri Lanka paid for the rest.

The Japanese Embassy on Wednesday (23) said that Sri Lanka’s request for stock of AstraZeneka vaccines was still under consideration. The Island raised the issue with The Japanese embassy in the wake of a statement issued by the President’s Media Division (PMD) on June 09 regarding positive Japanese government response to Sri Lanka’s request.

“President Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s request to the Prime Minister of Japan, Yoshihide Suga for 600,000 doses of AstraZeneca vaccine has received  positive response,” PMD stated in a statement soon after the President met Japanese Ambassador in Colombo Sugiyama Akira on June 09.

Asked whether the Japanese Embassy could comment on the PMD statement, the Japanese Embassy has sent The Island the following  statement: When circumstances allow and at an appropriate time, Japan will allocate around 30 million doses of vaccines manufactured in Japan to other countries and regions, including through the COVAX Facility. We have received a request from the Government of Sri Lanka for assistance in relation to vaccines. The two governments are in discussion on the issue and the request is being considered at our HQ. We would like to refrain from making further comments on the diplomatic communications.”

However, according to media reports Japan had already donated 1.24 million doses of AstraZeneca vaccine to Taiwan early this month.

Authoritative Foreign Ministry sources told The Island that the Sri Lanka reiterated call for urgent supply of AstraZeneca from the UK in the wake of recently concluded G7 summit where the issue of some influential countries hoarding vaccine stocks was revealed.

Both Prof. Jayasumana and Prof. Malavige explained the current status on the basis of relevant documents made available to The Island. Prof Jayasumana acknowledged that it would be the responsibility of the government to ensure the proper implementation of the inoculation drive though some shortcomings were obvious. He said the issue of malpractices in the overall programme couldn’t be  denied but every effort would be made to implement the programme.


Breaking News





The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has announced that the IMF Executive Board approved Sri Lanka’s program under the Extended Fund Facility (EFF). The program will allow Sri Lanka to access financing of up to US$ 7 billion from the IMF, International Financial Institutions (IFIs) and multilateral organizations.

This is a historic milestone for the country as the Government seeks to restore macroeconomic stability and achieve debt sustainability. Earlier this month, Sri Lanka received IMF-compatible financing assurances from its official creditors, including Paris Club members, India and China, allowing the IMF to convene an Executive Board and consider Sri Lanka’s request for a loan. The program is expected to provide much-needed policy space to drive the economy out of the unprecedented challenges and instill confidence amongst all the stakeholders.

Continue Reading


MPs urged to defeat move to conduct Law College exams only in English medium



Ali Sabry responds to accusations

By Shamindra Ferdinando

Opposition MP Gevindu Cumaratunga yesterday (19) alleged that the Wickremesinghe-Rajapaksa government was going ahead with a project launched by former Justice Minister Ali Sabry with the backing of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa to conduct Law College examinations only in the English medium, much to the disadvantage of Sinhala and Tamil students.

Addressing the media at Sri Sambuddhathwa Jayanthi Mandiraya at Thunmulla, the leader of civil society group Yuthukama urged all political parties, regardless of whatever differences, to vote against extraordinary gazette notification of 2020 Dec 30 No 22018/13 to be submitted to Parliament by Sabry’s successor, Dr. Wijeyadasa Rajapakse, PC, tomorrow (21).

The SLPP National List MP said that those who represented the interests of the South, the North as well as the Upcountry could reach a consensus on the issue at hand quite easily.

Responding to The Island query, lawmaker Cumaratunga said that Uththara Lanka Sabhagaya, consisting of a section of rebel SLPP MPs, backed the campaign to protect the language rights of Sinhala and Tamil communities. The first-time entrant to Parliament said that MPs with a conscience couldn’t back this move, under any circumstances, whichever the party they represented.

At the onset of the media briefing, MP Cumaratunga said that the denial of language rights of current and future students was a grave violation of the Constitution-Article 12 and Article 18. In terms of Article 12, no one should be discriminated against on the basis of language whereas Article 18 recognized Sinhala and Tamil as National Languages with English being the linking language.

Alleging that the previous Gotabaya Rajapaksa goverenment planned to implement the controversial law even without securing parliamentary approval, lawmaker Cumaratunga appreciated Minister Wijeyadasa Rajapakse’s decision to place it before parliament.

The civil society activist said that this despicable move should be examined against the backdrop of growing external interventions as the country struggled to cope up with the developing political-economic-social crisis. The passage of the new law could cause further deterioration of parliament, MP Cumaratunga said, adding that the House faced a serious credibility issue.

“How could elected MPs whichever party they represented back a move that directly affected the concerned communities,”? Lawmaker Cumaratunga asked.

Referring to a recent call by the Justice Minister to discuss the issue at hand, MP Cumaratunga said that among those present on the occasion were Attorney General Sanjay Rajaratnam, PC, and Dr. Athula Pathinayake, Principal of Law College. “Those who opposed this move asked Dr. Athula Pathinayake what he really intended to achieve by conducting Law College examinations in English, only. However, the Law College Principal failed to provide a plausible response,” the MP said.

Responding to strong criticism of their stand, MP Cumaratunga stressed that the importance of English as a language couldn’t be underestimated. But, ongoing efforts to promote English shouldn’t be at the expense of Sinhala and Tamil, MP Cumaratunga said, questioning lawmakers’ right to deprive Sinhala and Tamil communities of basic rights.

Ratnapura District SLPP MP Gamini Waleboda said that an influential section of the Bar Association of Sri Lanka (BASL) was behind this move. In a note dated March 17, addressed to all members of parliament urged them to defeat the contemptible move.

Lawmaker Waleboda said that there was no prohibition for those who wanted to sit law examinations in English. There was absolutely no issue over that but the bid to deny the language rights of those who wanted to sit examinations in Sinhala and Tamil was not acceptable under any circumstances. According to him, the BASL hadn’t consulted its membership regarding this move.

MP Cumaratunga also questioned the failure on the part of the apex court to make available to Parliament its interpretations in Sinhala. The Supreme Court continues to provide such clarifications in English only.

Responding to MP Cumaratunga’s allegation that he with the backing of the then President Gotabaya Rajapaksa resorted to action to make English compulsory for those studying at the Law College, incumbent Foreign Minister Sabry said: “That’s not correct. It is the council of legal education which formulates regulations.  The council consists of CJ, two senior SC judges, AG, SG, Secretary Justice and six senior lawyers of vast knowledge and experience.

 In terms of the constitution all higher education institutions can decide the language of studies and education. That’s how medical faculty, engineering faculty, IT faculty and management faculty conduct studies in English. Already Peradeniya and Jaffna universities do legal studies in English. It is good to do it, that’s how they become competitive. Even in India all legal faculties are in English. “

The President’s Counsel alleged that the kith and kin of certain people articulating this position received their education in English. The minister questioned why politicians get involved in this issue if the council of legal education made the relevant suggestion.

Continue Reading


No power cuts due to N’cholai unit failure – Minister



By Ifham Nizam

The breakdown of the Unit Three of the First Coal Fired Power Plant Complex in Norochcholai 270 MW intake of the 300MW will cost an additional Rs. 20 a unit due to thermal power generation, says the Ceylon Electricity Board (CEB).  “It will cost the CEB Rs. 96 million extra a day while the Norochcholai machine is out of order,” a senior Electrical Engineer told The Island.

Power and Energy Minister Kanchana Wijesekera yesterday said Unit 3 of the Norochcholai Coal Power Plant had failed. He said the CEB had informed him of the breakdown, but he said there would be no power cuts.

“The Unit 3 was due to undergo major overhaul maintenance in April. To ensure an uninterrupted power supply, the CEB-owned Diesel and Fuel Oil Power plants will be used,” the minister said.

The Norochcholai Power Plant has experienced breakdowns several times on previous occasions as well.The first generator at the power plant was shut down on December 23, last year to manage the coal stocks and for maintenance purposes.

Continue Reading