Sri Lanka to launch pilot project to vaccinate 18, 19-year-old students

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka will commence a pilot project to vaccinate children aged 18-19 against COVID-19 on Thursday (15), an official said.

Ministry of Education Additional Secretary (School Affairs) L M D Dharmasena told reporters on Wednesday (13) that the rollout will begin in Homagama, Colombo, Piliyandala and Sri Jayawardenapura educational zones in the Colombo district.

“This is for students who have sat for their GCE advanced level (A/L) once and current A/L students who are sitting for the exam this time,” Dharmasena said.

In an earlier statement, Army Commander Gen Shavendra Silva who heads Sri Lanka’s COVID-19 task force said school children in Sri Lanka aged 18 and 19 can get the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine from October 21 onwards.

Dharmasena said, after the pilot project in Colombo, the programme will continue as previously planned.

Accordingly, teenagers aged 18 and 19 who do not go to school can get the Pfizer jab from their local Medical Officer of Health (MOH) office also from October 21.

Dharmasena said the vaccination centres will be publicised on the websites of the ministries of health and education. He asked that students contact their school principal to get the exact location of their respective vaccination centre.

However, teachers and principals in Sri Lanka announced today that they will continue an ongoing strike, despite a government decision to open some schools on October 21.

Related: Sri Lanka teachers’ trade unions stick to their guns, continue strike

Dharmasena asked the teachers to cooperate in the authorities’ efforts to vaccinate students.

“In some areas we have put one vaccination centre for two or three schools due to the small number of students in those schools,” he said.

Students must bring their National Identity Card (NIC) with them and the Pfizer- BionTech vaccine will be administered as previously informed, he added.

Dharmasena said no children will be forced to take the vaccine but asked that parents encourage their children to take the vaccine without falling for misinformation campaigns.

There is considerable vaccine hesitancy among Sri Lanka’s  youth.

Related: Low turnout at Sri Lanka university vax centres as students show preference for Pfizer

“We ask all children to take the vaccine. This is a gift for the future of this country from the government,” said Dharmasena.

School Development Boards and past pupils associations may organise and support the health authorities at vaccination centres to avoid mass gatherings and maintain order, he added. (Colombo/Oct13/2021)

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