APHNH urges Govt to prioritize private healthcare workers in second vaccine drive

(COLOMBO, LANKAPUVATH) – Amid a spike in COVID-19 cases, The Association of Private Hospitals and Nursing Homes (APHNH) commended the Government’s decision to commence the roll-out of the second dose of the AstraZeneca vaccine, and called for the prioritization of private healthcare workers in the second vaccine drive.

According to Hon. State Minister of Pharmaceutical Production Channa Jayasumana, priority groups – primarily healthcare workers, the military, and the police – would be given precedence in the vaccine drive set to commence in the first week of May. Handling over 50% of out-patient care in the country, the Association reiterated the importance of private healthcare workers receiving the second dose alongside public sector medical staff.

“As an Association, we’re grateful to the Government officials and authorities that ensured that private healthcare workers were included in the country’s first vaccination drive in February. Nevertheless, only 50% of private medical staff have been vaccinated so far. We hope that as the second doses are rolled out, our frontline medical staff in the private sector will be considered a priority,” remarked APHNH President, Dr. Lakith Peiris.

The Association noted that the Government is in possession of 350,000 vaccine doses of the 500,000 doses initially provided by the Serum Institute, and was hopeful that a quantity could be reserved for the members of private medical staff that had received the first inoculation.

“While we appreciate the Government’s tireless efforts to protect the public, the urgency of the second vaccine dose for healthcare workers is paramount. We’re deeply concerned that members of the medical staff of the private healthcare sector, who received the vaccine in February, have recently contracted COVID-19. The second dose will afford them a higher degree of protection, which is our main priority now,” continued Dr. Peiris.

According to a press release from AstraZeneca, the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine remains to be 100% effective at preventing severe death and hospitalization, but the efficacy rates of the overall vaccine will rise between the first and the second dose.

“As concern grows over the country’s capacity to handle the pandemic, we would like to reassure the public that we are ready and standing by to assist the Government health forces. Throughout this crisis, private healthcare has played a complementary role to public healthcare in the country, and we hope that the invaluable contributions of private medical staff will be recognized and rewarded,” concluded Dr. Peiris.

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