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Rs. 1.4bn loss due to expiration of Pfizer vaccines

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The government has no plans to bring down the US-made Pfizer BioNTech vaccine against COVID-19 after about six million doses (about one million vials) expired this week, causing a whopping loss of Rs. 1.4 billion to the Government.

At the beginning of the vaccination drive against COVID-19, many people were not given the US-made Pfizer vaccine as their first and second doses. The limited amounts of Pfizer were restricted to those travelling overseas, cancer patients, and fisherfolk in the North and Northwestern coastal areas.

Health Services Deputy Director General Dr. Hemantha Herath told the Sunday Times that the Health Ministry had ended administering the US-made vaccine as the people had shown less interest in getting booster doses against the virus.

He said that despite 8.2 million people obtaining the first Pfizer booster dose (third dose) only 202,571 people had been administered the second booster shot (fourth dose).

The majority of the Pfizer vaccines were purchased by the Health Ministry, said Dr. Herath. The United States donated 1.9 million doses of Pfizer in partnership with COVAX, a World Health Organisation-led programme.

Dr. Saman Ratnayake, a former Secretary to the State Ministry of Pharmaceutical Products, Supply and Regulation, said the vials were bought in 2021 at USD 6-7 a vial when the dollar rate was Rs. 198.

According to the Epidemiology Unit, about 12 million doses of the Pfizer vaccine have been administered in Sri Lanka. More than 2.6 million people were given the Pfizer vaccine as the first dose, 1.1 million as the second dose, 8.3 million as the booster dose and just over 200,000 as the second booster dose.

The government has spent an estimated Rs. 52 billion for the purchase of the Pfizer vaccines.

The Health Ministry’s Chief Epidemiologist Dr. Samitha Ginige said the shelf life was extended from July 31 to October 31 after consultation with the WHO but still those who got the jab were less than expected.

Just after WHO’s confirmation of the shelf life, the government tried to donate six million doses to Myanmar with the assistance of the WHO but failed.

Health authorities said the vaccination drive to immunise school students with the Pfizer vaccine too failed due to frequent school closures. They say this year’s economic crisis, political unrest, transportation, and gas issues diverted the people’s attention away from the second booster dose.

“It is such a waste knowing millions of doses of Pfizer have expired. There were times people were desperately looking for Pfizer. Now there are no Pfizer vaccines in the country,” said Head of the Public Health Inspectors Union Upul Rohana.

He said the issue would arise for those travelling overseas seeking the Pfizer dose as the vaccine was currently not available even in the private sector.

“Most people didn’t have much choice ending up with the Indian-made Covishield or the Chinese-made Sinopharm. We as MPs were getting calls from well-known personalities seeking the Pfizer vaccine as the first and second doses,” said Opposition MP Kins Nelson who raised the vaccine concern in Parliament recently. The MP said the government should look into how such wastage of vaccines took place when there was actual demand for the specific vaccine.

COVID-19 claimed 16,781 lives and 671,110 persons have been confirmed to have contracted the virus since the first outbreak. At present Sinopharm is available at MoH-based vaccination centres.

(sundaytimes.lk)

(Except for the headline, this story, originally published by sundaytimes.lk has not been edited by SLM staff)

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Increasing beedi prices result of hidden pact!

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Increasing the tax on beedis instead of tax on cigarettes when there is an opportunity to earn more income from cigarettes is the result of an agreement between the heads of the tobacco company and the government, the Sri Lanka Mirror learns.

President Ranil Wickremesinghe said in the 2023 Budget speech that the government would impose a tax of Rs.2 on a beedi.

“I suggest a tax of Rs.2 per beedi to streamline the beedi industry and to discourage people from using beedis. Apart from this, the fees to be paid for obtaining certificates and licenses will also be increased,” he said.

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Highest income recorded from gem exports after 12 years

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The highest income from gem exports since 2010 has been recorded this year, National Gem and Jewellery Authority of Sri Lanka Director General Pradeep Thenuwara said.

He said more than 380 million USDs have been earned this year from the export of gems, including sapphires.

The National Gems and Jewellery Authority said that in the last 11 months, it has earned a record income more than the previous year.

Accordingly, it is reported that the 355 million USD income that was targeted to be earned from gem exports this year has already been exceeded.

Mr. Thenuwara said that sapphires found in Sri Lanka are popular in the world market and the largest amount of exported gems are sapphires.

Most gems have been exported to China, the US, Britain, Malaysia, Hong Kong while Israel has bought diamonds.

An income of 500 million USDs has been targeted from gem exports for 2023, and the Authority said it will provide facilities including new technology to the miners to achieve this target.

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Minister Tiran’s intelligence team ahead of IGP

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Public Security Minister Tiran Alles has launched an investigation into the sudden death of seven horses of the Police Mounted Division due to lack of proper food this year.

The minister has asked Inspector General of Police C.D. Wickramarate about the incident but it was reported that he was not aware of these incidents until the minister had questioned him.

Each horse has been brought to the Police Mounted Division at a cost of 35,000 USDs.

As soon as the information was received that seven horses had died from malnutrition, the minister has launched an investigation.

The minister has inquired about these deaths from SDIG Priyantha Weerasuriya who is responsible for supervising the welfare of the horses.

It has been revealed that the company that supplies horses’ feed has not provided proper feed.

It has also been reported that 23 healthy young horses have been transported to several special celebrations held in the recent past, but their health condition has not been considered whey they are being transported.

The investigations have revealed that the responsibility of monitoring the health of the horses lies with the veterinarian who also monitors the health of the police dogs and that the senior police officers have not paid special attention to the issue.

Meanwhile, it was reported that 38 horses have died in previous years.

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