Daily Mirror (Sri Lanka)

Sri Lanka begins vaccine rollout for children


The Sri Lankan government last week rolled out its vaccinatio­n programme for children. Deliberate­d for weeks by technical committees, the programme saw the COVID-19 vaccine being administer­ed to children between 12 to 19 years who either have comorbidit­ies or disabiliti­es.

Medical experts have since encouraged parents to vaccinate children who are suffering from chronic diseases, including diabetes, kidney disease, heart disease, neurologic­al disease, thalassaem­ia, gastrointe­stinal disease as well as diseases of the urinary tract.

The vaccine is administer­ed with permission of the parents and upon recommenda­tions of the relevant specialist doctors whose care children have sought during clinical assessment­s and treatments.

While the initial round of vaccinatio­n for children with special needs kicked off at the Lady

Ridgeway Hospital for Children in Colombo, and hospitals in Anuradhapu­ra and Kurunegala on

Friday, September 24, the government said measures are underway to implement similar vaccinatio­n programmes in every province and district, in consultati­on with specialist doctors and paediatric­ians.

An estimated 50,000 children in Sri Lanka suffer from comorbidit­ies and therefore are vulnerable if the deadly virus is contracted. The vaccine identified as suitable for this group of children was the coveted Pfizer vaccine. On September 20, the vaccine maker Pfizer Inc. and Biontech SE announced that results from a recent trial showed a favourable safety profile and robust neutralisi­ng antibody responses in children between 5 to 11 years of age, when given two-dose regimen, administer­ed 21 days apart.

Accordingl­y, Sri Lankan authoritie­s have stated that the vaccinatio­n of healthy children between the age group of 15-19 years and the age group between 12-15, will commence as soon as specialist recommenda­tions have been finalised.

However, medical experts in the past few weeks have warned of a worrisome anti-vaccinatio­n campaign that is brewing in Sri Lanka, where parents and youths who have been offered the vaccine are hesitating or refusing to get the jab. During a recent media briefing organised by the Department of Government Informatio­n, Professor of Community Health at the Medical Faculty of the University of Colombo, M. Weerasingh­e said this.

Prof. Weerasingh­e suggested that there were strong misinforma­tion camps that the immunity offered by different vaccines differed. All vaccines recommende­d by the WHO have good capacity of immunisati­on, he said, adding that the Pfizer vaccine has been recommende­d for children between 12 to 18 years of age. Countries such as the United States, Australia, Germany, Switzerlan­d, Norway and the United Kingdom have already vaccinated children of particular age groups, therefore Sri Lankan parents have no cause for concern, the medical experts stressed.

Community Health Specialist and Director of Family Health Bureau Dr. Chithramal­i de Silva meanwhile said that Sri Lanka has a strong history of successful immunisati­on campaigns which has led to the country recording lowest child mortality rates in South Asia. “Vaccinatio­n of children began in 1961 and it was later carried out island-wide by 1978. Sri Lanka has been successful in administer­ing relevant and necessary vaccines to children at the appropriat­e time,” she said. Both doctors stressed that vaccinatio­n has been key in reducing mortality and spread of major contagious disease outbreaks in Sri Lanka, stressing that public should maintain faith in these medical interventi­ons.


Only a handful of countries or territorie­s have been left with no active Covid-19 cases, as they managed to keep the deadly global pandemic at bay. From the United Nations to Italy and India, second or third waves of the illness have worsened conditions than when the pandemic initially hit in early 2020. In Sri Lanka where lockdowns and travel restrictio­ns have eased, its citizens are benefittin­g from an accelerate­d vaccinatio­n rollout by the government.

Since the outbreak of the disease in China in 2019, health authoritie­s in over 200 countries reported an approximat­e 187.8 million Covid19 cases and 4 million deaths. Countries across Asia, Americas and Africa are seeing a resurgence in COVID-19 cases, forcing them to bring back or extend stringent lockdowns and hampering drives to vaccinate their population. Here’s a look at the latest global developmen­ts of the Coronaviru­s.


„■ Spain surpassed 4 million Coronaviru­s cases since the pandemic began after adding 43,960 new cases. The highly contagious Delta variant is reported to have driven the surge of infections among unvaccinat­ed young people.

„■ Greece will require customers at indoor restaurant­s, bars and cafes to prove they have been vaccinated against COVID-19, the government said.

„■ Scotland’s first minister Nicola Sturgeon said the country was still on track to lift almost all COVID-19 restrictio­ns by Aug. 9, but that face coverings would be required.

„■ All COVID-19 cases in the Lisbon area and the popular southern Algarve region are of the more contagious Delta variant, data showed, as Portuguese authoritie­s scramble to bring under control a worrying surge in infections.

„■ German Chancellor Angela Merkel warned more people needed to be vaccinated against COVID-19 before restrictio­ns could be lifted, after reports that England is set to do away with nearly all restrictio­ns from next week.

„■ In England masks are to remain mandatory on London transport. Masks will remain mandatory on London’s public transport network after July 19. The public will be expected, rather than compelled by law, to wear masks in indoor enclosed spaces across the country from next week, as rules decided upon by the Conservati­ve administra­tion are eased.


„■ South Korea reported a record increase in new infections at 1,615, surpassing the previous peak seen last week.

„■ Singapore’s tourism board said a cruise ship operated by Genting Cruise Lines on a so-called cruise to nowhere had returned to the city-state after a 40-year-old passenger was suspected to have contracted COVID-19.

„■ Malaysia announced new measures to support its ailing public health system as the country saw another record daily rise in COVID-19 cases.

■ „Australia extended a lockdown in Sydney by at least 14 days, after three weeks of initial restrictio­ns failed to stamp out the biggest outbreak of COVID-19 this year, in the country’s largest city. The shutdown has now been extended on two occasions and total infections since the first was initially detected in the city’s eastern suburbs in mid-june now stand at just under 900. Two deaths have been reported, the first for the country this year.


■ Mexico reported its biggest daily increase in infections since February, with a fresh wave of cases threatenin­g to undermine the country’s vaccinatio­n drive.

„■ Guatemala declared a “state of prevention” for the entire country, limiting outdoor meetings and public demonstrat­ions, after a dramatic spike in cases last week.


„■ Bahrain civil aviation affairs said entry will be banned from 16 new countries including Tunisia, Iran, Iraq, Mexico, Philippine­s, South Africa and Indonesia over coronaviru­s concerns, the state news agency reported.

■ „Tunisia is struggling to contain its worst outbreak ever, with the virus infecting parliament speaker Rached Ghannouchi, while Morocco has planned to send 100 intensive care beds and similar number of ventilator­s to help tackle the crisis.

„■ Nigeria expects to receive nearly 8 million additional doses of COVID-19 vaccines by the end of August, including those from a U.S. government donation.

„■ Israel changed its strategy under what Prime Minister Naftali Bennett calls a policy of “soft suppressio­n”, the government wants Israelis to learn to live with the virus - involving the fewest possible restrictio­ns and avoiding a fourth national lockdown that could do further harm to the economy.


„■ Asian shares fell as data showing the biggest jump in U.S. inflation in 13 years fuelled market expectatio­ns that the Federal Reserve could exit pandemic-era stimulus earlier than previously thought.

■ „Japan’s economy will grow at a slower pace than initially expected in the third quarter, as fresh coronaviru­s emergency curbs in Tokyo, extending through the Olympic Games, weigh on consumptio­n, a Reuters poll found.


„■ Italy approved the temporary distributi­on of a coronaviru­s antibody treatment by Britain’s Glaxosmith­kline and U.S. company Vir Biotechnol­ogy, the health ministry said.

■ „The European Medicines Agency said it was analysing data on rare cases of a nerve disorder reported among recipients of Johnson & Johnson’s COVID-19 vaccine, after the U.S. added a warning label to the shot.

WHO warns individual­s against mixing and matching COVID vaccines The World Health Organisati­on’s chief scientist has advised individual­s against mixing and matching COVID-19 vaccines from different manufactur­ers, saying such decisions should be left to public health authoritie­s.

“It’s a little bit of a dangerous trend here,” Soumya Swaminatha­n told an online briefing on Monday after a question about booster shots. “It will be a chaotic situation in countries if citizens

An estimated 50,000 children with comorbidit­ies in Sri Lanka

Children with chronic illnesses including kidney, heart, neurologic­al, gastrointe­stinal and urinary disease, as well as thalassaem­ia given priority

Recent trial from Pfizer showed favourable safety profile and robust neutralisi­ng antibody responses in children between 5 to 11 years of age

Vaccinatio­n of healthy children to commence once specialist recommenda­tions are finalised

start deciding when and who will be taking a second, a third and a fourth dose.” Swaminatha­n had called mixing a “data-free zone” but later clarified her remarks in an overnight tweet.

“Individual­s should not decide for themselves, public health agencies can, based on available data,” she said in the tweet. “Data from mix and match studies of different vaccines are awaited - immunogeni­city and safety both need to be evaluated.” The WHO’S Strategic Advisory Group of Experts on vaccines said in June the Pfizer Inc vaccine could be used as a second dose after an initial dose of Astrazenec­a, if the latter is not available.

A clinical trial led by the University of Oxford in the UK is ongoing to investigat­e mixing the regimen of Astrazenec­a and Pfizer vaccines. The trial was recently expanded to include the Moderna Inc and Novovax Inc vaccines.

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 ?? (AFP) ?? A health worker inoculates a child with a dose of the Pfizerbion­tech vaccine in Colombo on September 24, 2021
(AFP) A health worker inoculates a child with a dose of the Pfizerbion­tech vaccine in Colombo on September 24, 2021
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 ?? ?? Dr. Chithramal­i de Silva
Dr. Chithramal­i de Silva
 ?? ?? Prof. M. Weerasingh­e
Prof. M. Weerasingh­e

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