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WHO, national regulators and vaccine manufacturers in South-East Asia Region discuss COVID-19 vaccines

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New Delhi, 11 December 2020:

The World Health Organization, national regulatory authorities and vaccine manufacturers in WHO South-East Asia Region discussed fast tracking of COVID-19 vaccine rollout in Member countries.

“The vaccine manufacturing and regulatory sectors have a critical role to play in equitable and efficient deployment of vaccines,” said Dr Poonam Khetrapal Singh, Regional Director, WHO South-East Asia Region, at the two-day virtual meeting that ended today.

The meeting deliberated processes and timelines to fast-track registration of COVID-19 vaccines in countries using the Emergency Use Listing procedures while comprehending the landscape of COVID-19 vaccine production in the Region.

Aimed at strengthening collaboration between national programmes, vaccine producers and regulators in the region for COVID-19 vaccine deployment, the meeting provided a platform for interaction and experience sharing for vaccine registration, deployment and regulation.

The Regional Director said all countries in the Region are now developing and finalizing national deployment and vaccination plans for COVID-19, of which regulatory preparedness is a core component.

Establishing expedited regulatory pathways for vaccine approval and adjusting regulatory pathways to the type of vaccine that is developed and filed for approval remains critical as emergency use authorization will precede full licensure, Dr Khetrapal Singh said.

While vaccine licensure systems may need to be modified, having standard operating procedures and stipulated timelines for emergency use authorization would be vital, she said.

The Regional Director emphasized on effective coordination, collaboration and information-sharing. From R&D to production, and from information on country readiness to post-marketing surveillance, manufacturers, regulators, policy-makers and planners must continue to work together to optimize and refine vaccine deployment.

“Countries in our Region are among the world’s largest vaccine manufacturers, and the vaccines produced here are likely to be administered to billions of people globally. I am certain that together, in solidarity with all people of the Region and world, you will effectively contribute to health and well-being of all,” Dr Khetrapal Singh said.

Key global and regional partners such as GAVI and UNICEF participated in the meeting. Among the vaccine manufacturers, from India Bharat Biotech International Ltd, Biological E Ltd, Cadila Healthcare Ltd, Serum Institute of India Pvt. Ltd,  Dr Reddy’s Laboratories and  Wockhardt Limited; from Indonesia Bio Farma Limited, and from Thailand  Government Pharmaceutical Organization (GPO), Bionet Asia Co.Ltd and Siam Bioscience, participated in the meeting.

This was the second such meeting with vaccine manufacturers and regulators organized in WHO South East Asia Region, with the first held in April.

WHO has been supporting Member countries of the Region prepare for COVID-19 vaccines. A special session of the WHO South-East Asia Regional Immunization Technical Advisory Group was organized in November. The expert group made a series of recommendations including a fast tracking of the development of national deployment and vaccination plan, the application of guidelines provided by the ‘Values framework for the allocation and prioritization of COVID-19 vaccines’ and the ‘prioritization roadmap’ to identify priority populations and ensuring equity in delivery of COVID-19 vaccines, especially during the early stages when vaccine supply is expected to be limited.

The expert group also recommended that all countries should ensure availability of high-quality, complete and timely COVID-19 surveillance data on all risk groups, including migrants and remote or displaced populations, for decision-making related to vaccination.

While establishing collaboration with other health programs and sectors for optimum delivery of vaccine, countries should also leverage their experience in vaccine delivery platforms for adults, including experience with seasonal and pandemic influenza vaccination and Measles and Rubella and Japanese Encephalitis vaccination campaigns, to find effective ways to reach eligible adults with COVID-19 vaccines.

Adjustments should be made to vaccination strategies in accordance with the COVID-19 prevention measures and plans developed for demand generation, community engagement and risk communication, with special consideration for overcoming vaccine hesitancy. Countries should leverage the use of existing networks, including those for polio, to support the deployment of COVID-19 vaccines where appropriate.

The expert group highlighted the need for all countries to assess available cold chain space and meticulously plan cold chain requirement, including necessary improvements in storage, stock management, vaccine delivery strategy and waste management.

Earlier, WHO organized a meeting of cold chain managers of countries of the South-East Asia Region to help assess cold chain needs, identify gaps and plan for appropriate measures.

At the global level since April, the ACT-Accelerator partnership, launched by WHO and partners, has supported the fastest, most coordinated, and successful global effort in history to develop tools to fight COVID-19. Its vaccine pillar – COVAX – is co-led by WHO, Gavi and the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations. It aims to accelerate the development and manufacture of COVID-19 vaccines, and to guarantee fair and equitable access for every country in the world.



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UNDP: Rs 600 bn tax cut a huge mistake

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Director of the Sustainable Finance Hub of the UNDP Marcos Neto has called the decision to do away with a range of taxes here a fundamental mistake committed by Sri Lanka.The comment was made at the Parliament complex during an interactive dialogue on ‘Revenue Generation as a Pathway to Sri Lanka’s Economic Recovery’ on Tuesday (09). It was organised on a request by Anura Priyadarshana Yapa, former Chairman of the Committee on Public Finance to the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).

The Opposition as well as several other parties alleged that the government had lost as much as Rs 600 bn due to the controversial decision to do away with a range of taxes including PAYE, NBT (Nation Building Tax), Withholding tax, Capital Gain tax imposed on the Colombo Stock Exchange, Bank Debit tax and unprecedented reduction of VAT (Value Added Tax). The 15% VAT and the 2% NBT which amounted to 17% imposed on all goods and services were unified and reduced to 8%, effective from the first of December 2019.

The decision was taken at the first Cabinet meeting of the Gotabaya Rajapaksa government on 27 Nov. 2019.Governor of the Central Bank Dr. Nandalal Weerasinghe is on record as having said that the powers that be ignored the IMF warning not to do so and also the immediate need to restructure Sri Lanka’s debt (SF)

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Debate on power tariff hike on 29 Aug.

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Party leaders have decided to debate the electricity tariff hikes in parliament on 29 August.The date was fixed for the debate following a request by the main opposition SJB.The debate will be held from 9.30 am to 4.30 pm on 29 August.

Chief Opposition Whip Kandy District MP Lakshman Kiriella told Parliament on Wednesday (10) that as per the proposed tariff hike the monthly electricity bill of domestic consumers would increase by 75 percent to 125 percent. “This is unbearable. This is like sending the people to an electric chair while they are struggling to make ends meet amidst a massive increase in cost of living.

How does this government expect people would be able to pay such an exorbitant price for electricity? We demand a debate in parliament before this proposed tariff hike is implemented,” Kiriella said.

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British national to be deported

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By Rathindra Kuruwita

The Department of Immigration and Emigration has ordered Kayleigh Fraser, a British national whose passport has been taken into custody after she posted on social media anti-government protests, for violating her visa conditions, to leave the country by 15 August. The Department has already cancelled her visa.

Earlier this month Immigration and Emigration officials visited Fraser at her home and took her passport into custody. The Department said Fraser had been in Sri Lanka for medical reasons since 2019. She had returned home several times, it said.

The Immigration and Emigration officers told her to visit them within the next seven days.Fraser on 02 August said that a group of immigration officers had visited her and asked for her travel document. She said that officials told her that they would return her passport when she visited the Department of Immigration and Emigration.

Fraser added that she had received an anonymous call asking her to leave Sri Lanka as soon as possible before facing ‘big problems.’ Immigration officials visited her house a few days after the call.

Fraser has shared a number of photographs and videos from the ‘Gota Go Gama’ site. Human Rights groups and activists have accused the Sri Lankan government of using Emergency regulations to harass and arbitrarily detain activists seeking political reform and accountability for the country’s economic crisis.

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