World Bank commends Lanka’s Covid-19 vaccine program | Sunday Observer
First briefing by President’s Media Spokesman

World Bank commends Lanka’s Covid-19 vaccine program

1 August, 2021

More than 8.2 million people which is 72 percent of the population above 30 years have received the first dose of any of the Covid-19 vaccines in Sri Lanka by mid last week, the Presidential media spokesman said.

In addition over 1.8 million people have taken the second dose of the Covid-19 vaccine, the spokesman told at the first weekly media briefing.

The following are the excerpts,

As of Thursday (July 29), 84 percent of people over the age of 30 years in the Colombo District, 93 percent in the Gampaha District and 85 percent in the Kalutara district have received the first dose under the ongoing accelerated inoculation drive of the Government.

More than 99 percent of the people over the age of 30 years in the Matale District have also received their first dose, according to the data released by the Health Ministry on Thursday.

At present, a mobile vaccination service for those who are ill and unable to leave their homes is already in operation on the instructions of the President, to ensure the state inoculation drive covers all citizens.

The first Sri Lankan Covid-19 patient in our country was reported on March 11, last year. On the same day, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared Covid-19 a global pandemic. Subsequently, the Government took steps to close all schools, universities and educational institutions in the country.

When the first cluster of Covid-19 emerged in Sri Lanka, the Government imposed strict travel restrictions and educated the public on how to protect themselves from the pandemic. The Government intervened and treated all those who contracted Covid-19. All those who came into contact with Covid-19 patients were found with the help of the intelligence services and quarantined.

The Government imposed a quarantine curfew to protect the public from the virus. During this period, steps were taken to provide an allowance of Rs. 5,000 on two occasions to some 5.9 million families who lost their sources of income. At the same time, a number of concessions, including loans, were also given to the public.

The Government successfully controlled the first Covid-19 wave due to the mechanism which was implemented under the guidance of the President Gotabaya Rajapaksa. During this time, many other countries were severely affected by the Covid-19 epidemic. However, no Covid-19 patients were reported from the community in Sri Lanka for several months.

The second wave of Covid-19, began to spread around factories and markets in October last year. However, early this year, the Government was able to control the second wave of Covid-19 to a large extent.

Sri Lanka is currently experiencing a third wave of Covid-19 as a result of people travelling in groups during the previous Sinhala and Tamil New Year. Health officials found a number of new strains of the Covid-19 virus have entered the country. Since the new variants spread faster and easier than before, the number of infected people increased rapidly in recent months.

During the course of the pandemic, Sri Lanka made significant progress in identifying Covid-19 patients, maintaining the quarantine process through tracing the contacts of patients, and treating the infected. Owing to that, we were able to maintain a lower death rate in comparison to other countries.

In the meantime, while strengthening the social and health mechanism required to deal with the Covid-19 pandemic, the President also paid attention towards vaccines to combat the virus and other affiliated research.

Accordingly, the President appointed a Presidential Task Force on December 31, last year to implement the National Covid-19 Vaccination Drive. The Task Force, headed by the Principal Advisor to the President Lalith Weeratunga, was entrusted with bringing down a safe Covid-19 vaccine to Sri Lanka soon.

In parallel, President Rajapaksa made numerous attempts to acquire vaccines to combat the virus for the sake of the people of Sri Lanka. He personally held talks with the Heads of States in several countries including China, India and Russia and also held discussions with the High Commissions and Embassies.

As a result of those efforts made, our country is now receiving the full number of vaccines required to continue the vaccination drive. Therefore, the government has been able to carry out the vaccination process scientifically and in a proper manner.

Following the request by President Rajapaksa to the Prime Minister of India, we received a stock of 500,000 anti-Covid- 19 vaccines as a donation. The Indian High Commissioner officially handed over the vaccines to President Rajapaksa on January 28 this year. The next day, on January 29, the Government commenced administering the vaccines. Before the vaccine stocks reached Sri Lanka, the mechanism for vaccination drive was put in place by the Task Force led by Lalith Weeratunga.

As a result of a request by President Rajapaksa to the President of China Xi Jinping, we received a donation of 600,000 doses of Sinopharm vaccine on March 31st.

In addition to that, on March 7, this year, Sri Lanka received 264,000 doses of Covishield vaccine under the World Health Organization’s Covax facility. Thereafter, the United States provided us with 1.5 million doses of the Moderna vaccine through the Covax facility.

As of July 28, Sri Lanka had received 10.7 million doses of Sinopharm vaccine and over 1.26 million doses of Covishield vaccine.

In addition, Sri Lanka 180,000 doses of Sputnik vaccine from Russia and 202,000 doses of Pfizer vaccine.

Sri Lanka uses only the Covid -19 vaccines approved by the World Health Organization.

In February this year, the Government signed an agreement with the Serum Institute of India to acquire another million Astrazeneca Covishield vaccines. However, during the first quarter of the year, the Covid-19 pandemic in India escalated. Therefore, we were only able to obtain 500,000 doses of what we had ordered.

The Government made a concerted effort to obtain the required doses of Covishield vaccines to administer the second dose. As one of the steps in this process, President Rajapaksa made a request to the Prime Minister of Japan to provide Covishield vaccines.

As a result, Sri Lanka will receive 1.47 million Covishield vaccines from Japan within the next few weeks. It has been decided to allocate 600,000 doses of this stock for the Colombo district to administer the delayed second dose. The President has instructed that the remaining doses be given as the first and second doses to the people of the Kegalle District.

The World Bank has commended Sri Lanka for its procurement process stating, ‘Sri Lanka is one of the leading countries in South Asia in terms of transparency and preciseness of vaccine procurement.’