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Sri Lanka approves vaccine amid warnings of virus spread

Sri Lanka approves vaccine amid warnings of virus spread

Sri Lanka on Friday approved the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine for COVID-19 amid warnings from doctors that front-line healthcare workers must be vaccinated quickly to prevent the system from collapsing.

Pharmaceutical Production and Regulation Minister Channa Jayasumana said the British vaccine has been approved for emergency use, the first in Sri Lanka, while several other candidates are pending at the National Medicines Regulatory Authority.

It is unknown when Sri Lanka will receive the vaccine.

“Hundreds of health workers have tested positive in various hospitals. When you have a positive case, it will be necessary to quarantine about 10 health workers. The system is collapsing by the day, ”said Dr. Haritha Aluthge of the Government Medical Officials Association, the nation's largest medical union.

"Vaccines need to be given quickly to keep health worker morale high and we need health workers to treat patients," Aluthge said.

After two months during which no community cases were reported, a random test on a factory worker in October led to the detection of a new group. Around the same time, the owner of a restaurant near the country's main fish market alerted authorities to an increase in the sale of acetaminophen, an indication that people were suffering from a fever. The fish vendors' tests detected a second group.

In more than three months since then, Sri Lanka has reported more than 52,000 new patients and 260 deaths. Between 500 and 900 new cases are reported daily.

Doctors blame complacency.

“We were a success story, but the problem was that we all, as Sri Lankans, forgot that COVID-19 existed. We thought that COVID was over, ”said Senal Fernando, secretary of the doctors union.

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