Over 20? A booster dose will minimise virus risks for Covid-19 | Sunday Observer
Medi Snips:

Over 20? A booster dose will minimise virus risks for Covid-19

23 January, 2022

The Epidemiology Unit, Ministry of Health last week addressing a media briefing at the Health Promotion Bureau reiterated the importance of getting the booster dose for all young persons over the age of 20 years without delay to avoid complications from a possible outbreak of the new SARS Cov 2 virus variant Omicron. Consultant Epidemiologist Dr. Deepa Gamage warned that even though there was no rapid increase in the number of Omicron cases in Sri Lanka as yet, the next two weeks would be crucial.

The Sunday Observer asked her why the country was in a decisive juncture and the next two weeks would be crucial? In reply, she said, “ There is a rapid increase in Covid-19 cases globally indicating high risk with daily cases raised to 1-2 million which is the highest number of cases we see to date. Due to this, there is a very high risk for us as well if we don’t complete our booster dose vaccination early, as evidence has shown that vaccinated persons have adequate immunity to protect themselves from the Omicron variant.“

To a further question as to why young persons over 20 years were being prioritised for the booster vaccine, she said, “ It is not that young persons are being prioritised. Above 20 years is the eligibility age for the booster dose. Healthcare workers and those who are above 60 years have already received the booster vaccination and now it is scaled up to include all eligible categories to get the booster dose vaccination.”

Asked by Medi Snips the details of the vaccination centres and if they operated on public and mercantile holidays as well, she said, “ Vaccination services have been made available in all MOH areas through field level clinics, in all hospitals for the convenience of the public. In addition, security services supported the vaccination by having community vaccination clinics to make it a success.”

We also asked for her comments regarding her statement that at present 600 to 700 cases of Covid 19 were also being reported daily, and ten to twenty Covid 19 deaths are reported in Sri Lanka of persons over 60 years with chronic diseases. If these numbers are correct isn’t it likely that the actual number of Covid cases and deaths are much higher than the numbers reported?

In reply, she said, “ The Epidemiology Unit responsibly gives out cases reported, out of those who are undergoing testing daily. If undue numbers are existing in the community, hospitals will get more cases. We know that the virus is circulating here in the country. What we are trying now is to prevent severe cases with complications and death. We experienced a high number of cases getting admitted to hospital when the caseload went up last May-June. In that case, hospitals and ICUs will be full with increased oxygen demand. However, for the moment the country remains at this level achieving satisfactory vaccination coverage and adhering to other preventive measures. I highlight that it is very important at this juncture to get the booster dose vaccination at the earliest possible and adhere to all other preventive measures. Now that the country is returning to the new normal, does it mean that the health rules will also be relaxed?

Her reply was an emphatic NO. “ It is the responsibility of all citizens to adhere to all recommended guidelines maximally while receiving the protection from vaccination. These are the 2 main strategies that can prevent disease transmission. All essential activities can be carried out while controlling communicable diseases, adhering to these main 2 strategies. If it goes beyond our control then we may have to strengthen measures. We now have adequate supplies of Pfizer BNT vaccine within the country for the booster dose despite a global shortage. So we advise the public to use this opportunity and get their vaccination at the earliest.“:

Since schools have started, we asked her if she had a message for school authorities. She said, “ The vaccination is now being offered to schoolchildren above 12 years. Ensure all eligible children have received the vaccination and also ensure whether all teachers have received the booster vaccination dose. Make sure all are adhering to preventive measures and authorities also have to see whether adequate facilities are available for preventive measures such as hand washing facilities.”