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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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Term tests for Western province suspended

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The term tests for grade 10 and 11 in the Western province schools has been postponed after some of the question papers were shared on social media ahead of the examination.

A senior official said that the decision had been taken after complaints that several question papers had been leaked out before the examinations.

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Russian Naval Ship Varyag Visits Colombo

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The Russian Naval Ship Varyag has arrived at the port of Colombo on a formal visit. 

This 187m long Missile Cruiser, manned by a crew of 529, is led by Flag Officer Captain 1st Rank Velichko Anatoly Vasicievich, with Captain 2nd Rank Glushakov Roman Nikolaevich serving as the Commanding Officer.

During their stay in Sri Lanka, the ship’s crew is expected to participate in various programs organized by the Sri Lanka Navy, fostering camaraderie and exploring tourist attractions in the country. 

The official visit will conclude, and Varyag is set to depart from the island tomorrow.

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SL over 60s cricket team ranked 4th in the world

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The Sri Lanka Over-60s cricket team, led by Garry Gunasekara, achieved a commendable 4th place in the recently concluded Over-60s Cricket World Cup in Chennai. 

Twelve teams, including all major cricketing nations except Pakistan and Bangladesh, participated in the tournament.

In the group league stages, Sri Lanka secured victories against India, Wales, and the Rest of the World. 

They also tied with the West Indies and suffered their only defeat to Australia, finishing 2nd in the group. 

Sri Lanka faced England in the first semi-final, resulting in a loss, while New Zealand lost to Australia in the second semi-final. Australia went on to convincingly win the final against England.

In the third-place match, Sri Lanka faced New Zealand and narrowly lost by 20 runs, ultimately securing the 4th position in the Over-60s Cricket World Cup.

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