President Gotabaya Rajapaksa has appointed an eight-member Presidential Task Force for National Deployment and Vaccination Plan for COVID-19 vaccine which will be headed by Principal Adviser to the President Lalith Weeratunga.
Its other members are Secretary, Health Ministry Secretary Major General Dr. Sanjeewa Munasinghe, State Ministry of Primary Health Care, Epidemics and COVID Disease Control Secretary Dr. Amal Harsha de Silva, State Ministry of Production, Supply and Regulation of Pharmaceuticals Secretary K.R. Uduwawala , Sri Lanka Army Commander and COVID-19 Task Force head Major General Shavendra Silva, State Pharmaceuticals Corporation Chairman Dr. Prasanna Gunasena, Government Medical Officers’ Association President Dr. Anuruddha Padeniya and Health Services Director General Dr. Asela Gunawardena.
The Government recently said efforts were being made to procure two vaccines as early as next month. State Minister of Primary Health Services, Pandemics and COVID Prevention, Dr. Sudarshani Fernandopulle has stated the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine is to be obtained via India and the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine through the World Health Organisation (WHO). Sri Lanka requested Indian support during the External Affairs Minister’s visit last week.
In the Gazette Notification issued by the President establishing the Task Force, it was noted that the timely and efficient delivery of such a vaccine to achieve population immunity to COVID-19 is a paramount need facing the country at present, and a concerted high level national intervention is required to achieve coordination and collaboration among relevant government agencies and stakeholders at national, district and local levels for effective deployment of vaccines and vaccination.
While the Secretary to the Health Ministry is authorised to determine the protocols and sources of procurement, the Presidential Task Force for National Deployment and Vaccination Plan for COVID-19 Vaccine has been directed to execute the following tasks:
(a) Identify a safe and efficacious COVID-19 vaccine(s) that is most appropriate for Sri Lanka in consultation with technical experts and on available evidence.
(b) Establish appropriate and streamlined regulatory and administrative procedures for emergency approval, fast track procurement, imports, customs clearances, and release to the national immunisation programme in order to facilitate timely access to COVID-19 vaccines.
(c) Collaborate with relevant embassies, donors, UN Agencies, and professional groups for technical and material support.
(d) Identify and prioritise population groups who are at higher risk from COVID-19 for vaccination in the first phase, and thereafter sequence the delivery for the public.
(e) Formulate and implement a COVID-19 vaccine deployment and vaccination plan including inter alia clear responsibilities, standard operating procedures and timelines for participating stakeholders, chain of reporting and management structures.
(f) Assess existing supply chain systems in order to identify and address gaps, such as in storage, distribution, temperature monitoring and tracking and reporting vaccine stocks.
(g) Establish a robust supply chain information system on stock management and distribution that includes monitoring and reporting of vaccine utilisation.
(h) Devise appropriate logistics plans for the roll out of the vaccination plan, including identification of locations for vaccination, vaccination teams, procurement of required equipment, consumables and their distribution, cold chain capacities and storage of the vaccine, and monitor its implementation.
(i) Identify the human resources, technology, and budgetary requirements to ensure timely delivery of vaccines and vaccination.
(j) Regularly review global information related to COVID-19 vaccines and incorporate it, where appropriate, into the planning and preparation for COVID-19 vaccine deployment and vaccination processes.
(k) Enforce a vaccination vigilance plan to record and monitor the process of vaccination and report adverse events in real-time.
(l) Ensure proper training for supply chain and health staff for the successful and timely deployment of vaccines and vaccination and liaise with relevant experts and agencies to ensure quality of training.
(m) Establish a public communication mechanism to report on the progress of the vaccine deployment and vaccination strategy.
Additional Secretary to the President Chandima Wickramasinghe, will be the Secretary of the Task Force.
The Task Force is required to submit reports to the President periodically.