Professor Asita de Silva addresses CCC on Covid-19 vaccination program


The Ceylon Chamber of Commerce had the privilege of having Professor Asita de Silva, Chairman of the National Medicines Regulatory Authority as the guest speaker at its monthly Committee Meeting held on February 25, 2020.

According to Professor de Silva, the primary objective of vaccination is to prevent death and to reduce severe disease. Healthcare workers, elderly and those with other co-morbidities are the most vulnerable to contact the illness, which is why these groups receive the highest priority for vaccination.

According to WHO, over the last five weeks, the world has seen a drop in the global numbers in infections and the number of people dying from the disease, which may be due to seasonal variability of the virus, public health measure such as strict lockdowns, and perhaps the contribution of Covid-19 vaccination. Unfortunately, however, there is an inequitable distribution of the vaccines where 10 countries have received 60% of the total manufactured vaccines and around 130 countries have received none.

Professor de Silva reiterated that vaccines are biological products, not synthetic chemical compounds, and are manufactured through very complex processes. Therefore, any vaccine that can prevent disease is a precious commodity. Not only discovery and development of vaccines but rolling out vaccination programs are also very challenging.

The Professor explained that unprecedented level of scientific effort and funding that was available for developing vaccines against this disease, which facilitated their availability within a very short time. In addition, various platforms that were available and being evaluated for other diseases were used for Covid-19 vaccine development. For example, the currently used Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine was initially being developed against prostate cancer.

We all know the best weapon against Covid-19 is vaccination. Sri Lanka should vaccinate as many as possible, as quickly as possible. Professor de Silva reassured that the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine is safe and effective. It has been authorized for emergency use by the National Medicines Regulatory Authority (NMRA) after careful review by an independent panel of experts advising the Authority.

Certain stories such as impact on fertility circulating in social media are untrue. Patients with co-morbidities including those suffering from serious chronic diseases including CKD must receive the vaccine as they are the most vulnerable.

As per WHO recommendations, women who have received both doses of this vaccine can plan to have children. It has been noted a significant number of female healthcare workers within childbearing age have refused to take the vaccine. This is due to misinformation and poor communication.

According to Professor de Silva, 4,000 vaccination centers have been prepared across the island to administer the vaccine when full roll out commences. The simple message to the public should be ‘get vaccinated’ and if in doubt talk to your doctor.