Govt opts for vaccine with SL’s cold chain system | Sunday Observer

Govt opts for vaccine with SL’s cold chain system

20 December, 2020

The Government is studying several vaccines and would opt for one that can be stored and transferred within the country using its current cold chain system. Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna, that require extreme cold will be difficult to be rolled out as they need special storage facilities, State Minister of Primary Health Care, Epidemics and Covid-19 Control, Dr. Sudarshani Fernandopulle told the Sunday Observer. The officials expect an approved vaccine to be available in the country by next year. The vaccination process will be a public-private partnership and the Government will vaccinate the public free, the officials said. Frontline workers, people over the age of 60 and those with comorbidities will be given priority during the first phase, Dr. Fernandopulle said adding that the issue with Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna is that they need to be stored and transferred in extreme cold storages. “Storage, transportation and at the point of vaccination we have to maintain this temperature and for countries such as ours it is difficult,” she said adding that, therefore, they are also studying other vaccines.

Vaccines such as the Oxford/AstraZeneca, she said can be stored in refrigerators in the country. “We can use our cold chain system. These vaccines have received emergency FDA approvals but they are yet to be registered by the Food and Drug administration of the UK,” she said. The World Health Organization is yet to recommend a vaccine and when it does, Sri Lanka will receive doses sufficient to vaccinate 20 percent of the population. Dr. Fernandopulle said information about the vaccines is not freely available. Vaccines such as Pfizer-BioNTech were tested on the older population, but it has to be studied on others, she said adding, we are yet to know if it treats the virus completely or just reduces the viral load making patients asymptomatic.

“People will have a false sense of protection and may not follow other preventive measures such as wearing masks and washing hands. We need to create public awareness about this. The virus is mutating rapidly and we will need at least one dose a year to be protected,” she said.

However, it is still too early to say when the vaccine will be rolled out in Sri Lanka, the State Minister said.