Covishield vaccination program launched | Sunday Observer

Covishield vaccination program launched

31 January, 2021

Sri Lanka launched the much-anticipated Covishield vaccination program in six hospitals in the Western Province on Friday (29).

Director of the Infectious Diseases Hospital (IDH) Dr. Ananda Wijewickrama became the first medical officer to receive the Indian manufactured Covishield vaccine, along with three military personnel.

The first consignment of the Covishield vaccines, a gift of India, arrived in the country on Thursday. They were handed over to Sri Lanka during a reception where President Gotabaya Rajapaksa and High Commissioner of India Dr. Gopal Baglay participated in an event that ‘reflects on the prevailing bonds of neighbourly ties and goodwill between both countries’.

“President Rajapaksa a few days ago personally called upon the Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi to send a stock of the vaccines to Sri Lanka for use among frontline health workers.

In a generous move, the Indian government under its ‘neighbours first’ policy responded to President Gotabaya’s request and went to the extent of purchasing the 500,000 stock through India’s main laboratory before it was sent free of charge to Colombo by an Air India flight A1 281 on Thursday morning,” Sri Lanka Army media said in a statement.

The samples were handed over to State Minister of Primary Health Care, Epidemics and Covid-19 Disease Control Dr. Sudarshani Fernandopulle.

“The Covishield vaccine injected in two doses on a person will be first used at the Colombo National Hospital, Ragama Hospital and six other hospitals, including the Colombo Army Hospital and the Panagoda Army Hospital.

Thereafter, it will be taken to other areas and all Army Hospitals as planned. In fact, we had a few rounds of rehearsals for transport, storing, inoculation and other measures.

“This vaccine is restricted only to those whose names have already been listed and the entire program will remain very transparent. Countries, such as Russia and China too have offered to send us the vaccines as a goodwill move in response to the President’s request in addition to what has been offered by the World Health Organization (WHO) in the coming weeks,” Head of National Operations Centre for Prevention of Covid-19 Outbreak (NOCPCO) Army Commander Shavendra Silva said.

The Sri Lanka Army will transport the vaccines to prioritised areas as recommended by the Presidential Task Force, since they have to be stored under specific temperature. The first storage will take place at the Epidemiology Unit freezers before they are distributed among frontline health workers, Army, Navy and Air Force personnel and police.

Soon after the consignment was unloaded at the Bandaranaike International Airport (BIA) steps were taken to transport it to the air cargo warehouse. The consignment was later transported to the main warehouse of the Ministry of Health in Colombo in several trucks with special cold storage facilities.

Officials said 150,000 health workers and 120,000 selected military and police personnel will be the first to be inoculated at six hospitals in Colombo and its suburbs.

Advisor to the President Lalith Weeratunga said two or three million doses of the vaccine will also be purchased from India.

“The State Pharmaceutical Corporation (SPC) will place an order within the next two days with the Serum Institute for three million doses because there is a huge competition for the vaccine in the world.

There is also no point in purchasing large quantities of the vaccine and storing it here because the vaccine has a lifespan of around six months. We must be prepared to provide the vaccine to the public as soon as it is brought down,” Weeratunga told a press conference.

On Thursday, Sri Lanka recorded the highest number of Covid-19 patients in which 852 were from the Peliyagoda cluster and the remaining were 40 overseas returnees.

Government Information Department sources said that, the death toll from the virus had reached 297 and the number of cases were 61,586.

Sri Lanka was ranked 10 in a performance index of 98 countries for their handling of the Covid-19 pandemic, said a report compiled by the Sydney-based Lowy Institute on Thursday. New Zealand was ranked 1st.

This Covishield Vaccine is a product of the Serum Institute of India (SII) and approved for restricted use in emergency situations for individuals 18 years and above.

It is a recombinant non-replicating viral vector vaccine. Replication defective, safe adenovirus type used as a platform to deliver the glycoprotein (encoding SARS-CoV-2 Spike S) that trigger an immune response in the body against the Covid-19 Virus.

The duration of protection is still not specified. The vaccine is stored at +20C to +8 0C (needs to be protected from freeze and direct sunlight), ready to use liquid non-preservative, multi-dose vaccine of 5ml (10 doses). Shelf-life around is around six months on production and expiry date is available on the product label.

A dose of 0.5 ml of the Covishield vaccine should be administered by intramuscular route (IM) in to the upper arm preferably on the left side. The second dose should be planned within one month. Those who receive the first dose should complete the second dose for protection from the virus.


FAQs from the Ministry of Health

What is the vaccination? It is a simple, safe and effective way of protecting people from harmful diseases by using the body’s natural defences to build resistance to specific infections and make the immune system stronger.

Why do we need a vaccine against Covid-19? Vaccination is important in preventing illness and disease. Sri Lanka has a long and very successful history of disease control and prevention with vaccinations. Covid-19 preventive behaviour are extremely important, but disease control with behaviour alone has been difficult to achieve. A vaccine together with preventive behaviour may be the only possible exit from this pandemic.

How are Covid-19 vaccines developed and tested? Every vaccine must go through extensive and rigorous testing to ensure it is safe before it can be administered. An experimental vaccine needs to undergo animal testing, human pre-clinical testing, and population phase I, II, and II clinical trials before it is sent to the market. During these phases the safety and effectiveness are assessed.

What is in the Covid-19 vaccine? Most vaccines consist mainly of antigen, adjuvants, preservatives and stabilisers. In the Covid-19 vaccine the antigen trains our bodies to recognize it and fight it if there is a reoccurrence.

How does the Covid-19 vaccine work? The vaccine carries a non-living part of the virus (a protein found on the surface of the virus) which is used to build resistance to the virus, using our body’s natural defences. Strong immune responses and memory is developed by special immune cells named B and T cells. If the person is infected later on by the virus, these cells remember the virus and attack it.

Why is it important to get the Covid-19 vaccine? The Covid-19 virus is highly infectious and spreads quickly -can cause serious illness, hospitalisation, long term complications and even death. Getting your vaccine should protect you and may help protect your family and those around you. Being in good health does not reduce your risk of being infected with the Covid-19 and later passing it on. You can unknowingly infect your loved ones and those around you even if you have shown no symptoms at all. By getting vaccinated we are helping protect ourselves, society and being socially responsible

Is the Covid-19 vaccine safe? As with all vaccines, Covid-19 vaccine also needs to meet rigorous criteria for safety and effectiveness. All vaccines go through rigorous studies to ensure they are safe before being approved for use.

With Covid-19 becoming a global health emergency, scientists around the world were working very hard to get vaccines out as soon as possible.

Vaccine safety was the most important factor in the process of vaccine development. Evaluations of different vaccines were done very fast. No short cuts have been taken. Proper clinical trials have been conducted. Vaccines developed with huge commitment, sufficient funds and a large team of capable people working to achieve a common goal.