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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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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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