We talked to a person who had offered Rs. 5,000 (approximately 26 US dollars) to obtain the Oxford AstraZeneca vaccine that is administered free of charge by the Sri Lanka government. The individual, whose identity we do not disclose, offered this bribe to health officials at an office of the Medical Officer of Health (MOH) in Colombo city to obtain a token for the vaccine from a Public Health Inspector (PHI).
Some of these vials of Oxford AstraZeneca vaccine which are sold by the public officials are a free gift of 500,000 vaccines from the government of India. Initially, the vaccine was given to frontline workers like health staff, military and police. After administering one dose, the Ministry of Health decided to postpone the booster dose and gave the vaccine to more people.
Later, the government ordered vaccines from India and hope to vaccine millions of people.
However, the health officials seem to have blatantly ignored the World Health Organization (WHO) recommended prioritization and some responsible officials administer the vaccine to their family members, relatives, friends and other associates.
A staff member of a major hospital in the Kalutara district told that one medical consultant had brought about a dozen contacts including domestics and drivers to the hospital to give them the vaccine.
Sources from the National Institute of Health Science (NIHS) situate in Kalutara told that thousands of vaccines were administered to people through contacts in a full ad hoc manner.
Sources from Colombo city told that at the places the vaccine was available, people could go on the queue, produce their identity cards and obtain the vaccine, irrespective of their age, residence or whatever.
Meanwhile, some other sources said that the vaccine would be given to people who are over 60 years of age. However, no clear policy can be identified in the field.
(The cover photo shows Sri Lanka Minister of Health Pavithra Wanniarachchi promoting a local medicine for COVID-19. The Minister contacted the COVID-19 virus later and treated in an Intensive Care Unit.)