Govt. looking to accelerate vaccination as fears of a delta surge loom


COLOMBO – With the highly transmissible delta variant now confirmed in Sri Lanka, health authorities are taking measures to accelerate the country’s vaccine rollout, though research in the UK is pointing to some concerning cases of resistance to vaccines.

Given that both doses of a COVID-19 vaccine are needed for protection against this newer, more transmissible strain, Sri Lanka is looking to accelerate the rollout, State Minister for COVID-19 control, Dr. Sudarshini Fernandopulle, told reports on Wednesday (23).

“This variant spreads the same way the other strains did. The main thing is to follow health guidelines and try not to take the virus home because it is more transmissible than the currently dominant alpha variant and also has a higher mortality rate,” she said.

However, according to epidemiologist and Senior Fellow at the Federation of American Scientists, Dr Eric Feigl-Ding, 45% of Delta variant deaths in England from June 8 to 14 were among those who have been fully vaccinated with two doses. The patients have also contracted the disease 14 days after receiving the second dose.

Citing Public Health data, Dr. Feigl-Ding tweeted on Monday (21) that total Delta deaths have gone up by 31 in one week, and of these, 14 had been fully vaccinated.

He added, however, that there is still a large benefit of vaccination.

“But we cannot say for certain that #DeltaVariant is “nothing to worry” about anymore. It is much faster transmission & 2.5x greater hospitalization risk than #Alphavariant which implies 4x hospitalization vs. original,” he tweeted.

Fiegl-Ding tweeted again the same day that mere seconds of exposure even in a fleeting contact could trigger multiple delta infections.

Sri Lanka detected five cases of the delta strain in Dematagoda, Colombo, with another suspected case reported in Madiwela, Colombo, pending genome sequencing results.

Fernadopulle said the virus will continue to evolve, and with each mutation, newer variants could become deadlier to the human body.

“As per the World Health Organization (WHO), delta will be the dominant variant in the world,” she said.

“There is nothing new that needs to be done. People should continue to follow guidelines, maintain social distancing and minimize travel,” she added.

Two thousand two hundred and five (2205) new cases were confirmed on Wednesday, adding to the 2,093 new cases confirmed in a period of 24 hours that ended at 6:00 a.m. the same day, taking the virus tally to 255,091. The alpha (or UK) variant is still the dominant strain of the virus.

Minister of Health Pvithra Wanniarachchi told Parliament Wednesday 135 patients are receiving treatments in the Intensive care units. Overall, 33,342 patients are receiving treatment in designated hospitals across the country. Sri Lanka also recorded 65 COVID-related deaths on Wednesday, taking the fatality count to 2769.

Wanniarachchi warned on Wednesday that people who do not adhere to guidelines and quarantine rules will be taken to court.“We, as the ministry of health, and the police are taking measures to strictly follow this. We still save this country,” she vowed.

Deputy Director of Health Services, Dr. Hemantha Herath said health authorities were more focused on vaccination and taking measures to minimize the spread. “When we identify patients, we can’t immediately determine which variant they’re infected with. After we test for the variant, we do not trace it. We quarantine close contacts and isolate the area to stop the spread,” he explained

“We also don’t do sequencing tests for all patients we find, as it is not practical. It is not cost-effective to determine which patient has which variant. We focus on containment. What we’re doing in Madiwela is something like that,” he added.

Deputy Director-General of Laboratory Services at the Ministry of Health, Dr, Saman Rathnayaka said currently no confirmation has been made regarding the consignment of Pfizer-BionTech vaccines scheduled to arrive in Sri Lanka this year.

However, one million doses each of the Chinese Sinopharm and the Russian Sputnik V vaccines will arrive on Friday (25) and sometime in July respectively, he said.

“The one million Sputnik V doses will include 100,000 doses to be given as the second dose for those who have already received the first jab,” he added.


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