With not even 50 per cent of Sri Lankans having taken their “first booster or the third dose” of the Covid-19 vaccine, Professor and Head of Department of Immunology and Molecular Medicine (IMM), Neelika Malavige urged the public to hasten in obtaining it before the next lineage of the Omicron variant of Covid-19 overtakes the country.
Speaking at a media briefing in Colombo yesterday (6), Prof. Malavige said only 37.1 per cent of the country’s population had taken the first of the booster shots of the Covid vaccine. It was essential for the island’s elderly population and those suffering with chronic illnesses to take the first booster shot to prevent serious effects of the Omicron variant’s lineages. Presently, the BA5 variant of Omicron is affecting several countries. Some of those nations were hit badly due to the severity of the spreading resulting in the increasing death toll and hospitalisations of Covid cases.
She said “I am not talking about the fourth dose, but of the third dose and the importance of taking it. People in majority South East Asian countries have shown a great inclination towards obtaining the booster or third dose of the Covid vaccine which enabled them not to be overwhelmed by the effects of Omicron or BA5 or any other of its lineages. Singapore (87.9 per cent), South Korea (86.2 per cent), Vietnam (83.6 per cent) and Thailand (over 75 per cent) have been able to vaccinate a large percentage of their population.”
The Head of the Department of IMM observed that Sri Lanka’s elderly population and those with chronic disease had been unscathed to a large extent as they had received the first and second doses of the Covid vaccine by the time Omicron entered Sri Lanka. She said the fact as to whether the viral variant of the disease was going to have a severe impact on a particular population was decided by their level of vaccination.
Prof. Malavige appealed to the elderly and those with chronic diseases whose immune level was at a low level to obtain the third or booster shot of Covid without further delay.
Meanwhile, Deputy Director General, Disaster Management and Emergency Response, Dr. Hemantha Herath, fielding questions, urged the public to maintain health safety measures as much as possible. “There is a rising trend in the number of Covid cases being reported from several countries. But with the shortage of medicine and the present crisis, all we are asking is for the public to adopt preventive measures against the viral infection,” he explained.
“Therefore, those who have not taken the third or fourth doses of the vaccine (the two booster shots) should do so as soon as possible. But, what is presently being witnessed is a strong reluctance owing to rumours and myths with regard to the vaccine,” he said.
By Dilanthi Jayamanne