Vaccinate, Vaccinate, Vaccinate

CEYLON TODAY | Published: 2:00 AM Jul 28 2021

Yesterday, this newspaper carried an article under the heading ‘Delta variant prevalent in all districts - DDG’. The delta variant of COVID-19 is said to be the most vicious of all COVID-19 variants.

That article, quoting Deputy Director General (DDG) Disaster Management and Emergency Response Dr. Hemantha Herath said, with COVID-19 cases infected with the delta variant being identified in several areas of the country, health authorities have deduced that that viral variant was present in all districts. To further quote Herath, he said that not only in the Colombo District, but all cases with this variant had been detected from the North, South and Eastern areas of the country as well. 

The only earthly solution to contain COVID-19, from whichever variant it emanates, delta or any other, is by vaccination. According to the Epidemiology Unit (EU), as at 11 a.m. on Monday, only 1,882,693 persons had received both the required doses of vaccines needed to keep the COVID-19 virus at bay or render it non-effective or only mildly effective, for a period of a year, vis-à-vis the vaccinated person. 

Currently, the vaccines available in the market have to be administered twice within a maximum specified period of time, for it to be effective. The only vaccine that needs only one dose is the Johnson & Johnson (J&J) vaccine of the USA. But according to available records, it’s unlikely that Sri Lanka, to date has been gifted or procured J&J vaccines. 

A total of 1,882,693 persons having had obtained both vaccinations amount to only 9.41 per cent of the country’s total population being fully vaccinated. This is in the context that it’s presumed that Sri Lanka’s current population is 22 million. According to latest Census and Statistics Department data, Sri Lanka’s population as at 2019 stood at 21,803,000 (21.8 million). 

Considering the natural annual net additions to the population, this newspaper presumes that Sri Lanka’s population will have had increased to 22 million by this year end. Meanwhile, the World Bank (WB) in a statement issued on 27 April said that Sri Lanka plans to vaccinate at least 60 per cent of its population. Though unsaid, probably the 60 per cent target is by the year end. Sixty per cent of a 20 million population works out to 12 million.

 Having given the required double doses to only 1,882,693 of the population means that of the 12 million vaccination target of two doses per person to be achieved before the year end, Sri Lanka has met only 15.69 per cent of that target, with another 84.31 per cent of the target audience yet to be vaccinated twice, an unsatisfactory state of affairs for a country which boasts of having the highest human development indices covering the important sectors of health and education in the South Asian region. 

According to deducements made from EU data, another 5,965,945 of the country’s population, presumably excluding J&J, which vaccine is not in the island according to this hypothesis, has received a single dose of the COVID19 vaccine as at 11 a.m. on Monday. Therefore, the Government of Sri Lanka’s (GoSL’s) strategy as the next step should be to inoculate this segment of the population with the second dose at its’ soonest, rather than attempting to vaccinate people who haven’t got a single dose, up to date. 

Considering the durability and efficacy of the vaccine, which, according to certain health sources is three months, ie after the receipt of the first dose and presuming that that 5,956,945 of the population who had got the first dose, got it at the earliest two months ago, ie in May, GoSL, together with friendly nations and donor agencies such as the WB and the ADB should do its utmost to ensure that that 5,956,945 of the target population will get their second dose by end September the latest. External support is sine-qua-non to procure the vaccines, considering the costs of such vaccines and also considering the fact that Sri Lanka’s coffers are virtually bare of US dollars. COVID-19 vaccines are currently not manufactured in Sri Lanka. 

Therefore, if not gifted, it has to be procured from abroad, where the currency for international transactions is the dollar. Meanwhile, this month is virtually over and half of a 5,956,945 population who has got only the first vaccine works out to 2,978,473. Therefore, the GoSL’s next target should be to give the second dose of the COVID-19 vaccine at the rate of 2,978,473 doses monthly beginning from next month for the next two months to September, to ensure that the balance 5,956, 945 of the population, who, up to 11 a.m. on Monday had got only the first dose, will also get the required second jab, to put Sri Lanka’s vaccination programme on track. 

A total coverage of 7,839,638 of the ‘target’ population of having received both jabs by end September works out to a reach out of a vaccination coverage of 65.33 per cent of the targeted population of 12 million by the year end, leaving Sri Lanka to cover only 34.67 per cent or 4,160,362 of the target population with both jabs before the year end, ie from September through to December 2021. Sri Lanka has its work cutout, it’s now left to it to make it happen.

CEYLON TODAY | Published: 2:00 AM Jul 28 2021

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