ECONOMYNEXT – Though 61.5 percent of Sri Lanka’s total population has received two doses of a COVID-19 vaccine, a significant number has yet to receive their second dose, particularly in the Kandy district where the remaining stock of Moderna jabs is nearing expiration.
Chief Epidemiologist Dr Samitha Ginige told reporters on Thursday (04) that targeted populations that received vaccines that aren’t widely available in the country or are difficult to obtain are refusing to get their second dose.
“A majority of Kandy residents got Modern, but there is a percentage that still hasn’t got their second dose,” said Ginige.
“If it is Sinopharm, we can even give it later since we have the vaccine in stock. But the Moderna stock was obtained through a donation, and it will expire within the newt two to three months, after which we will not be able to administer it,” he said.
Ginige urged Kandy residents eligible for the second shot to visit their local Medical Officer of Health (MOH) office and get the jab as soon as possible.
Meanwhile, health authorities expect the country’s total vaccination target to be achieved in November.
According to Ginige, so far 29 million doses of five COVID-19 vaccines rolled out in the country have been administered in total: 15 million first doses and 13.4 million second doses.
Nearly 100 percent of the 20-years-and-above age category have been received the first dose, out of which 92.2 have received both shots.
In October, health authorities started vaccinating children aged 12 to 19 with medical conditions and all children between 16 and 19 years of age.
“We have 1.3 million children in the 16-19 category, of which we have vaccinated 55.3 percent or 830,000 children so far,” Ginige said.
“In the 12-19 group with special medical needs, 22,832 have also been vaccinated.
“Of the total population, 71 percent have been given the first dose while 61.5 percent are fully vaccinated. We can pass the 70 percent mark within the next month,” he said.
However, a significant number of people who received the first dose have yet to come forward to get the second jab.
“To get the total protection, you definitely need to get both shots,” Ginige said.
“There is no issue about the time period. Some may think that, because they missed the day for the second dose, they cannot get it or there is no point in getting it. There is nothing like that, because the immune system’s memory is there. You can get it at any MOH office.”
Ginige cautioned that even if current vaccination targets are achieved, it is mandatory to follow health guidelines as even a small number of people not getting vaccinated could result in another wave.
When compared with the lockdown period where more than 3,000 daily cases were detected, he said, the current situation is good. However, the general public must act responsibly keeping in mind that the danger is still present.
“The small percentage who didn’t get the vaccine can be a threat for the majority at any time,” Ginige said.
“We have not forced or made the vaccine mandatory. It is voluntary. But everyone has a social responsibility to get it,” he added.
The chief epidemiologist was also critical of members of the public who he said have been flouting the health regulations.
“If this behavior continues, it will be impossible to prevent clusters from forming. It will take at least two months to control a large cluster. We experienced it some time ago.”
If patients numbers start to increase, with more severe conditions appearing and more patients coming in to intensive care units will result in a spike in the death toll as well, said Ginige.
“To get the 100 percent results , the next thing after vaccination is to follow health guidelines,” he added. (Colombo/Nov05/2021)