Child vaccination program begins | Sunday Observer

Child vaccination program begins

26 September, 2021
Vaccination of children with comorbidities at the LRH on Friday (24) Panellists including Paediatric Specialist  Prof.Pujitha Wickramasinghe at the Presidential Media Centre Pix. Sulochana Gamage
Vaccination of children with comorbidities at the LRH on Friday (24) Panellists including Paediatric Specialist Prof.Pujitha Wickramasinghe at the Presidential Media Centre Pix. Sulochana Gamage

The Government commenced the program to vaccinate children between 12 to 15 ages who suffer from serious health issues (comorbidities), against Covid-19 on Friday, September 24.

This pilot project of the program was held at the Lady Ridgeway Hospital for Children, Colombo.

Health officials had urged the parents to have trust and vaccinate their children without fear to ensure the program of vaccinating children within the targeted period is a success.

The media was asked to take extra measures to disseminate only the reports confirmed by specialist doctors, on the children’s vaccination program, as the spread of myths can completely sabotage this highly costly exercise of the Government to keep children protected.

A panel of expert doctors was invited by the President’s Media Spokesman Kingsley Ratnayake to the weekly media briefing at the Presidential Media Centre on Thursday to educate the media and the parents on the vaccination of the children of this age category.

The inoculation of all children between 15 to 18 and children above 12 years with comorbidities against the world pandemic was recommended by a team of consultant paediatricians assigned to advice the Government.

A total of four million doses of Pfizer vaccine will be allocated to complete this task, State Pharmaceutical Corporation (SPC) Chairman Dr. Prasanna Gunasena said.

The Government is yet to take a decision on giving the vaccine to healthy children between 12-15.

However, Dr. Gunasena said Sri Lanka has secured enough vaccines to immunise the entire population above 15 years of age.


Chairman, State Pharmaceutical Corporation, Dr.Prasanna Gunasena

Our basic plan was to vaccinate all 15.56 million people above 18 years.
We needed nearly 32 million doses of vaccine for that purpose. Already, the government has completed bringing down this requirement. And the first round of the vaccination drive will be completed by end of September.

Several foreign Governments including India, China, Japan and the US, donated 6.5million doses of vaccine to Sri Lanka. The rest was ordered and secured by the SPC.
We ordered the four million doses of Pfizer vaccine, early to avoid a shortage in supply.

Earlier it was decided to be used as a booster shot but now the Government has decided to use it on children between 15 to 18 years. We have been able to maintain a steady supply of vaccines because we acted on advice issued by the Advisory Committee of Communicable Diseases (ACCD).

The four million Pfizer vaccines have already been paid for. We have placed orders for a further 14 million consignment of Pfizer vaccines. This is expected to arrive in batches in November and December this year. The payments for those consignments are yet to be made. The Covid-19 Task Force will decide as to who will be given these. One suggestion is to use it as a booster shot for immunity compromised adults and over 60 year olds.


The breakdown of vaccines received and ordered by SPC (Sep 23)

1.7 m Astra Zeneca, 1.5m Moderna 2.6m Sinopharm, 1m Pfizer, 450,000 Sputnic V
4m Pfizer (to arrive next month)
14m Pfizer (ordered)
(Source: SPC)


The list of diseases eligible to get the Covid-19 vaccine under the 12 – 15 age category (the circular will be issued shortly)

Immune system disorders Hematological diseases including Thalassemia, Acute Diabetes, Neuro Disability, children with certain birth defects linked to genes, kidney and heart disease, certain disorders linked to digestive system and respiratory disease. Parents written consent and a consultant doctor’s recommendation is mandatory to vaccinate the children in this age category.


Paediatric Neurologist Dr. Anuruddha Padeniya, a member of the Health Ministry Expert Panel on Vaccinating Children

There are 4.2 million children in the school going age. We have considered WHO, CDC and FDA recommendations on vaccinating children to prepare our own set of recommendations to the Government. Thus, children above 12 years of age, with comorbidities will be vaccinated first.

There are different schools of thought on which vaccine to be used on children, the experts here have decided on Pfizer but there are other countries which use Sinopharm. For example the UAE has approved the emergency use of Sinopharm vaccine on children aged 3-17.
When you get both doses of the vaccine, there is a drastic reduction in hospitalisation and fatalities. It also prevents post Covid-19 complications. This is the target. The vaccine alone will not prevent the virus from spreading. Although children are vaccinated, they must continue to adhere to health guidelines such as wearing a mask, washing hands and social distancing.

This week the vaccination of children with comorbidities will begin in the Colombo district and it will be expanded to Gampaha, Kalutara and other districts gradually.

The SPC has allocated more than enough vaccines for all the children.
Therefore, parents should not panic, and travel long distances to get the vaccine. They should visit the closest hospital that is included in the vaccination program.


Director Health Services, North Western Province, Consultant Dr. Sampath Indika Kumara

We have found that out of 21 people under the age of 20 years, who died of Covid-19 related complications, 14 had comorbidities such as diabetes, kidney disease, neuro disease, downing syndrome and epilepsy.

This is the reason why this category of children was given preference under the vaccination drive.
Those who are eligible to be vaccinated in this category should get a letter from the consultant doctor treating the child or the state hospital clinic the child is registered at.

The parents are required to fill a form at the vaccination center.
The children of this age category will be given the vaccine at a hospital, to reassure parents.
Parents of such children are familiar with the hospital environment and the emergency system will be at hand in case of an emergency.