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SLF Int, Bringing Outstanding Medical Professionals Around the Globe to Present, “Scientific Session on COVID-19, What We Know Now! Webinar Coming UP

STAY TUNED!! Webinar Coming Up Hosted By Sri Lanka Foundation International in Collaboration with Highly Qualified Medical Professionals Across the Globe!

“Scientific Session on COVID-19, What We Know Now”

Date and Time

April 24th: 7.00pm US (PST)
April 25th: 7.30am Sri Lanka
April 25th: 1.00pm Australia
April 25th: 10.00am Hong Kong
April 25th: 3.00am UK


Speakers and Moderator



Dr Paul Holtom, MD from US
Professor of Infectious Disease and Internal Medicine, USC
USC Keck School of Medicine

Moderator:

Dr Deepthi Jayasekara, MD, FACP, M-IDSA, 
Infectious Disease Specialist from US
Clinical Professor, Western University, 
Chief of Infectious Disease, Emanate Health & San Dimas Hospital


Dr Malik Sriyal Joseph Peiris from Hong Kong
Professor, in Medical Science
Professor: Chair of Virology
Division of Public Health Laboratory Sciences
MBBS, FRCPath, D Phil (Oxon), FHKAM (Path), FRCP, FRS

Dr. Ananda Wijewickrama, M.B.B.S, MD, MRCP (UK), FCCP
Consultant Physician of National Institute of Infectious Disease ( IDH), Sri Lanka
External lecture/examiner in faculties of Medicines and a member of the National Medicines, Regulatory Authority of Sri Lanka.
President of the Ceylon College of Physicians for the year 2020. 


Professor Suranjith Seneviratne from UK
DPhil(Oxon), MBBS, MD, DPath, MRCPath, MRCP, FRCP, FRCPath, FCCP
Professor and Consultant in Clinical Immunology and Allergy
Institute of Immunity and Transplantation and Health Services Laboratories, London, UK
Nawaloka Hospital Research and Education Foundation, Sri Lanka


Dr. Dushyantha Jayaweera, M.D, FACP, MRCOG from US
Professor Infectious Disease Specialist, University of Miami School of Medicine and University of Miami Hospital.

Please click in the link below to register:

https://us02web.zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_adMdaF55QQ-wB7zqD4GZOg

For more information contact:
Keshini Wijegoonaratna, Director of Project Management & Public Relations
213-400-7705 or keshini@srilankafoundation.org

Improving Sri Lanka’s Market Access to the US – Growing beyond the traditional products

The National Chamber of Exporters of Sri Lanka (NCE) is partnering with the Sri Lanka Embassy in Washington D.C. (SLEMB/DC) to better inform Sri Lankan exporters regards the evolving trends in the US market and strategies that could help navigate challenges and overcoming bottlenecks.

At a webinar held recently, over 40 Sri Lankan registered exporters, engaged with 10 selected business entrepreneurs identified by SLEMB/DC, following its State level interactions of the recently constituted Overseas Sri Lankans (OSL) Network. The event was also live streamed through social media of the Chamber, making the discussion accessible to a broader base of those interested in exporting to the USA. Moving forward, it was agreed to conduct sector specific dialogues, where the Sri Lankan exporters will be provided with the opportunity to engage in discussion with the business community of the particular sector, in order to foster mutually beneficial trading relationships. Further a separate event is proposed as a dialogue to enhancing long term trade related relationships such as partnerships, Franchise and Investment opportunities between the two countries.

Inaugurating the session, Sri Lanka’s Ambassador to the USA Ravinatha Aryasinha said, while increasing the value of apparel exports to the US, a concerted effort is presently being made to diversify the export product basket to US. He noted that while the USA has remained the largest single buyer of Sri Lanka’s exports since 1979 and in 2019 had a share of 26.3% of all exports, the products basket to the US had seen very little diversification. Apparel has been the dominant export item accounting for 74.5% of the total value, and did not benefit from GSP facility. The rest which enjoyed GSP, were mainly rubber based products which accounted for 7%, and the other products included tea, iron and steel articles, activated carbon, precious and semi-precious stones and sea food. The Embassy was reaching out to the OSL community in the US and to Americans who are interested in doing business with Sri Lanka and helping them in identifying the products which they could import from Sri Lanka to the US. The increased production of some of these products, could also encourage greater US investment in to Sri Lanka.

In the discussion that followed led by Chairman of the NEC Shiham Marikkar, focused on obstacles faced by importers when importing from Sri Lanka including quality assurance, pricing, promotion and communication and shipping and logistics. The need for adaptation to the largely e-commerce marketing strategies to increase exports. SLEMB/DC Minister (Commercial) Sumedha Ponnamperuma shared insights on the introduction of the US market, import system and current trends.

Management Committee:
President: Mr. Ravi Jayawardena, Vice President: Mr. Jayantha Karunaratne, Vice President: Mr. Indra Kaushal Rajapaksa, Immediate Past President: Mrs. Ramya Weerakoon, Past President: Mr. Ramal Jasinghe, Hony. Secretary: Mr. Dilshan Rajapaksa, Hony. Treasurer: Mr. Rajeev De Silva, Hony. Assistant Secretary: Mrs. Thushari Weerakoon, Hony. Assistant Treasurer: Mr. Lakshan Algama, 1 Representatives from the Council: Mrs. Nilrukshi De Silva & Mr. Farhath Amith

The participating Sri Lankan professionals residing and doing business in USA shared insights regarding the current market conditions and the opportunities available. Mr. Aruna Abeykoon from Las Vegas discussed obstacles faced by importers when importing from Sri Lanka, Mr. Jeevaka Fernando from Laos Angeles shared his experience on aspects related to Quality assurance, pricing, promotion and communication. Mr. Anjana Aluthwatte provided insights on sales and marketing strategies in the USA, Mr. Rick Miller from Virginia explained about the shipping and logistics including the including the potential to increase warehouse facilities to help mainly the SMEs exporting to the US in smaller quantities, Mrs. Udeni Abeykoon from New York focused on the selling of Apparel Products in the US market online and marketing strategies to increase exports, while Mr. Jeevaka Fernando from Los Angeles elaborated on important aspects regarding quality assurance, pricing, promotion and communication. Former Director General/Department of Commerce of Sri Lanka Nimal Karunathilake also shared his experience regarding the regulatory aspects of the USA market.

Some of the key highlights of the discussion were; • US is a highly competitive market due to the size of the market as well as the prominence in the world economy, therefore the businesses often dominate the trading terms. It is important for the exporters to understand this background when negotiating their business, as well as be well prepared to face challenges. The customs system and the import structure is unique and complex. Importers operate separately from the vendors.

• The importers face challenges when importing from Sri Lanka due to issues arising in quality, commitment and seriousness of exporters. Further lack of knowledge on the regulations in US market was also highlighted. Therefore, it is important to keep the commitment to source products as and when required, quality of the product as agreed.

• Discussing regarding GSP scheme, it was informed that the US GSP for Sri Lanka has expired on 31st December 2020 and currently the US Congress is in the process of deciding the next phase of GSP Scheme for all countries. Further discussing the beneficiary products range, it was mentioned that the Sri Lankan Exporters are requested to submit their suggestions to be included in the GSP eligible product list, when it comes for review of the scheme later in 2021.

• Another key feature that was highlighted was the quality. Quality is important, from process to storing stages, therefore the exporters need to be aware of different quality standards they have to comply with as well as the overall offering of the product.

• Pricing plays a key role and it is expected to be consistent. When exporters determine prices, it is important to analyze pricing elements in a broader perspective, including raw material, processing, transportation costs, storage costs, custom tariffs and insurance costs.

• It is important to support the SMEs and help them expand in the market as they could bring in quality products.

• US market due to its complexity and different regulations, finding partners is one of the key strategies to overcome barriers in exporting to US. The partners are often well conversant to cater to the market needs as well as assist the exporters to comply with the regulatory requirements. Further it is seen as an advantage regarding communication with multiple stakeholders given that partners are present in the US Market. Further another aspect to be mindful is the time differences between Sri Lanka and different zones.

• With the current situation there is a surge in usage of online platforms for selling and for marketing. However, it is important to focus on brand building rather than solely focusing on selling.

•Discussing regarding the apparel sector exports to USA, it was highlighted that the shopping patterns of people have drastically changed. More people prefer online shopping to physical stores and USA is a price sensitive market with high competition from competitors such as China and Bangladesh. However, the consumers are concerned regarding purchases from China, and this could be a positive opportunity for the Sri Lankan exporters in the sector. Another noteworthy change that has occurred in this sector is the reduction of stock turn-around time, as the consumers change their preference rapidly, as opposed in the past, further season specific colors and styles are preferred, and therefore the Sri Lankan Exporters should be ready to cater to the demand.

• Focusing on logistics, strategically locating businesses activities are important to ensure delivery on right time in right quantities, hence focusing on the timing and direction. East coast is one the convenient areas to reach the market, given the times and the convenience in reaching from Sri Lanka. The USA cities are connected with a rail road; therefore, it takes 3 to 10 days generally. For exporters who are hoping to expand in e-commerce, 19 to 20 days’ transit time is to be specially considered and for the exporters with smaller shipments, especially LCLs, it is important to select transit locations wisely in order to reap the best benefits of market opportunity.

The National Chamber of Exporters of Sri Lanka (NCE) is the only private sector Chamber which exclusively provides services to Sri Lankan Exporters, who make a vital contribution to the economy of Sri Lanka earning valuable foreign exchange. The Chamber has a membership of over 500 export companies, including some of the biggest Export houses in Sri Lanka, as well as a number of SME exporters. They are responsible for over half of the foreign exchange earnings of the country.

With a view to engage in successful market access promotional activities, the NCE is coordinating with all Sri Lankan Mission and their trade officers to jointly create awareness on the new market needs. Currently plans have been made to conduct a series of webinars, to provide valuable informative insights to the Exporters as well as connect them to relevant stakeholders.

The Chamber would like to invite Sri Lankan exporters to hold hands with the chamber’s initiative to enable expanded market access, whereby the destinations where proud Sri Lankan brands reach are expanded. Interested Sri Lankan exporters are encouraged to contact the chamber via nce@nce.lk to indicate your interest in participating in future event, where the Chamber will register you accordingly.


HE Ravinatha Aryasinha

NCE, SL Embassy in Washington host webinar

The National Chamber of Exporters of Sri Lanka (NCE) is partnering with the Sri Lanka Embassy in Washington D.C. (SLEMB/DC) to better inform Sri Lankan exporters regards the evolving trends in the US market and strategies that could help navigate challenges and overcoming bottlenecks.

Inaugurating the session, Sri Lanka’s Ambassador to the USA Ravinatha Aryasinhasaid, while increasing the value of apparel exports to the US, a concerted effort is presently being made to diversify the export product basket to US. He noted that while the USA has remained the largest single buyer of Sri Lanka’s exports since 1979 and in 2019 had a share of 26.3% of all exports, the products basket to the US had seen very little diversification. Apparel has been the dominant export item accounting for 74.5% of the total value, and did not benefit from GSP facility.

The rest which enjoyed GSP, were mainly rubber based products which accounted for 7%, and the other products included tea, iron and steel articles, activated carbon, precious and semi-precious stones and sea food. The Embassy was reaching out to the OSL community in the US and to Americans who are interested in doing business with Sri Lanka and helping them in identifying the products which they could import from Sri Lanka to the US. The increased production of some of these products could also encourage greater US investment in to Sri Lanka. In the discussion that followed led by Chairman of the NEC Shiham Marikkar, focused on obstacles faced by importers when importing from Sri Lanka including quality assurance, pricing, promotion and communication and shipping and logistics. The need for adaptation to the largely e-commerce marketing strategies to increase exports.

SLEMB/DC Minister (Commercial) Sumedha Ponnamperuma shared insights on the introduction of the US market, import system and current trends.

The participating Sri Lankan professionals residing and doing business in USA shared insights regarding the current market conditions and the opportunities available.

Aruna Abeykoon from Las Vegas discussed obstacles faced by importers when importing from Sri Lanka, Jeevaka Fernando from Los Angeles shared his experience on aspects related to quality assurance, pricing, promotion and communication.

Anjana Aluthwatte provided insights on sales and marketing strategies in the USA, Rick Miller from Virginiaexplained about the shipping and logistics including the including the potential to increase warehouse facilities to help mainly the SMEs exporting to the US in smaller quantities, Udeni Abeykoon from New York focused on the selling of Apparel Products in the US market online and marketing strategies to increase exports. Former Director General/Department of Commerce of Sri Lanka Nimal Karunathilake also shared his experience regarding the regulatory aspects of the USA market. The discussion also focused on the prospects for collaboration between the NCE and the re-activated US-Sri Lanka Chamber of Commerce. Dilan Ariyawansa of the US-Sri Lanka Chamber, elaborated on the role they proposed to play in the future in the furtherance of two way trade and investment between the US and Sri Lanka.

The National Chamber of Exporters of Sri Lanka (NCE) is the only private sector Chamber which exclusively provides services to Sri Lankan Exporters, who make a vital contribution to the economy of Sri Lanka earning valuable foreign exchange.

The Chamber would like to invite Sri Lankan exporters to hold hands with the chamber’s initiative to enable expanded market access, whereby the destinations where proud Sri Lankan brands reach are expanded.

Interested Sri Lankan exporters are encouraged to contact the chamber via nce@nce.lk to indicate your interest in participating in future event, where the Chamber will register you accordingly.

For more information go to:dailynewsonline@lakehouse.lk

Video Attached! SLF speaks with H.E Ambassador Ravinatha

Ravinatha Pandukabhaya Aryasinha assumed duties on 1 December 2020. His Letter of Credence as Ambassador of Sri Lanka to the United States of America was formally accepted by President Donald J. Trump on 23 December 2020.

Having joined the Sri Lanka Foreign Service (SLFS) in 1988, Ambassador Aryasinha is presently the senior most officer in the Service. Prior to his current appointment, he was the Foreign Secretary of Sri Lanka, serving from October 2018 to August 2020, under 3 political administrations.

As Foreign Secretary, Ambassador Aryasinha led the Sri Lanka delegation to the 74th UN General Assembly in September 2019, the first time a Sri Lankan Foreign Secretary has addressed the UNGA during the High-Level segment. He also led Sri Lanka delegations to the Sri Lanka-EU Joint Commission in Brussels in February 2019, the Commonwealth Foreign Affairs Minister’s Meeting (CFAMM) in London in July 2019, and to the 19th Council of Ministers Meeting of the Indian Ocean Rim Association (IORA) in Abu Dhabi in November 2019.

From April – October 2018 he served as the Additional Secretary/ Economic Affairs and Trade in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, where he operationalized a comprehensive Economic Diplomacy Programme(EDP) supported by an independent budget, enabling the Foreign Ministry and Missions to serve as catalysts in economic development, in close collaboration with Government Agencies, Business Chambers and the Private Sector.

From July 2012 – March 2018, he was Sri Lanka’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations in Geneva and Consul General of Sri Lanka to Switzerland. During this period he led Sri Lanka delegations to most sessions of the Human Rights Council (HRC), as well as launched several bilateral and multilateral initiatives related to UN agencies in Geneva. These included, conceptualizing the ‘Sri Lanka-World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) Cooperation Action Plan’, enabling collaborative research between Sri Lankan scientists and the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN), evolving a self-funding mechanism as the Chair of the Permanent Representatives of the Colombo Process on Migration, and as Chair of the United Nations Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons (CCW) initiating a process that enabled the enhancement of the mandate on Lethal Autonomous Weapons (LAWS). As President of the Conference on Disarmament (CD) from January- February 2018, Ambassador Aryasinha secured a consensus among member states on Decision CD/2119 to establish five subsidiary bodies to discuss all items on the CD agenda, which brought the CD back to substantive work after a lapse of 22 years.

While in Geneva, Ambassador Aryasinha was also concurrently accredited as Sri Lanka’s Ambassador to the Holy See and oversaw the State Visit of His Holiness Pope Francis to Sri Lanka in January 2015, while establishing close relations between Sri Lanka and several key Pontifical Councils in the Vatican.

From April 2008- June 2012, he was Sri Lanka’s Ambassador to Belgium, Luxembourg and to the European Union. During the last phase of the LTTE terrorist conflict in Sri Lanka and the quest to take action against LTTE front organizations, he enabled cooperation between Sri Lanka and the Europol, as well as Eurojust,.

Other positions Ambassador Aryasinha held in Colombo and abroad include – Second Secretary in the Sri Lanka High Commission in New Delhi, India (1989-91), on leave from the SLFS as National Information Officer in the Office of the United Nations Resident Coordinator in Sri Lanka (1993-1995), and Director/Publicity & Foreign Ministry Spokesman (1995-2000). He served in the Sri Lanka Embassy in the USA (2002-2006), where during the latter period he was the Deputy Chief of Mission with Ambassador Rank. From 2007-2008, he was the Director General in the Public Communications Division and Foreign Ministry Spokesman.

Ambassador Aryasinha has served as a Visiting Lecturer in International Relations, South Asian Politics, Diaspora Politics, Counter-Terrorism and Public Diplomacy at several academic/professional institutions including the University of Colombo and the Sir. John Kotelawala Defense University (KDU) in Sri Lanka. He has co-authored ‘Spoilers or Catalysts: The role of Diaspora in Peace Processes’ with Yossi Shain of Georgetown University, in Edward Newman & Oliver Richmond (Ed) Challenges to Peace Building: Managing Spoilers during conflict resolution (U.N. University Press, 2006), while contributing to academic journals including the UK King’s College Journal of Conflict, Security and Development.

He started his professional life in 1981 as a journalist at the Ceylon Daily News – the then leading Sri Lankan newspaper, and was a pioneer in the setting up of Rupavahini – the National Television Network of Sri Lanka, where he was a Senior Political Correspondent from 1982-1988.

Ambassador Aryasinha received his secondary education at Ananda College, Colombo. He holds a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Philosophy, Politics and Economics from the University of Peradeniya and a Master of Arts Degree in International Relations from the University of Colombo. He was a ‘Hurst Fellow’ in International Relations at the School of International Service (SIS), American University, Washington DC in 2001-2002.

A recipient of an ‘American Field Service (AFS) Scholarship’ as a student, he spent the academic year 1978-1979 attending Bennett High School in Buffalo, New York, and earned a US High School Diploma and won colours in athletics. In 1985, he received the ‘Ten Outstanding Young Persons of Sri Lanka’ Award by the Jaycees Junior Chamber International for his contribution to the field of Media.

Ambassador Aryasinha is married and has three children. His other interests include Reading, Music and Tennis.

Click on the link below to watch the video:

https://youtu.be/QZ6jLnxWs1g

Ranga Dias Is on the TIME 100 Next 2021 List!

Let’s be clear: hoverboards, magnetic levitation trains and resistance-­free power lines are not coming this year or next. But thanks to Ranga Dias, they’re closer than they ever were. Those technologies (and many more) rely on developing new ­superconductors: ­materials through which energy can move with no resistance. The catch is that supercold temperatures have long been necessary for super­conductors to work, making them impractical. So Dias, an assistant professor of mechanical engineering at the University of Rochester, came up with a solution that could pave the way for future innovations: a room-­temperature super­conductor that’s super­dense instead of super­cold. Dias developed a material made of hydrogen, sulfur and carbon, squeezed at a pressure equivalent to 2.5 ­million atmospheres.

The extreme compression eliminates electrical resistance, allowing energy to traverse with ease. Dias is aware of the breakthrough nature of his work. “People have been trying to develop super­conductors for a century,” he says. They missed their chance in the 20th. In the 21st, thanks to Dias, they just might succeed.

—Written by: Jeffrey Kluger/ Time 100 Next

COVID-19 vaccine is safe – Prof Suranjith Seneviratne

Prof Suranjith Seneviratne, Professor and Consultant in Clinical Immunology and Allergy at the Royal Free Hospital and University College London, dispels some of the myths and misconceptions surrounding COVID-19 vaccines. “All the data point towards the increased and prominent benefits of vaccination. You can look at the data from the countries that have vaccinated more people and that now it is preventing people going to hospital ICUs and dying.”

Following are excerpts:

Why do we need vaccines?

A: In general, if a person gets an infection, the immune system comes into place and produces antibodies and white cells – T cells and B cells. During that process, the cells produce memory and the next time they meet the virus or the bacteria, there will be immune memory which will prevent the person from getting that infection. But, the problem is if you get an infection, some can become very ill or even die. So, what we try to do with vaccines is to mimic a natural infection. For example, rather than allowing a child to get measles, you will get a vaccine to mimic that process so that antibodies and white cells are produced. So, when the child meets the measles virus, that child will not get a severe infection.

Similarly, with SARS-CoV-2, we are trying to mimic the virus and produce antibodies and white cells, so that we would have protection when we meet the virus.

Can you elaborate a bit more about herd immunity?

A: If we have a certain proportion of the population that is immune to the virus, it varies from 60-80 per cent, you will find what is called herd immunity. Then the spread of the virus is limited to a great extent. It would be ideal to get 100 per cent of the people immune, but what we want is to get a certain proportion of the population immune.

It really depends on the rate of transmission. If the transmission is high, you will find the population that has to get immunity is higher. Or, that percentage has to be vaccinated, in order to break the transmission. Otherwise there will not be a sufficient number of people who are not immune to get the infection.

Were these vaccines made as a quick fix, disregarding protocols?

A: If we turn back to March, April, May of last year, people did not have much hope that we would be able to produce a vaccine for SARS-CoV-2 because for infections like HIV, Malaria, TB we still don’t have good vaccines. However, the world came together with a lot of different resources and they worked in parallel. Previously, when developing a vaccine, it took about 15 years. The reason was first pre clinical studies had to be done, then the Phase I, wait some time, analyse the data, then do Phase II, then after that Phase III, etc. But, what happened here was things were telescoped together; that is while Phase I was being done, Phase II and III were also starting. While the studies were going on, the regulators were getting the data. Previously, one Phase has to be finished, before even deciding on going through with the next phase.

So they did not cut down on protocols. They did everything right, but all at once?

A: Absolutely. Rather than doing one after the other, they did it all together. So, the human studies were done while the animal studies were going on, which would not have occurred previously.

There are different vaccines available?

A: So, one method is to take the live virus and attenuate it so that it is not dangerous. That’s called a live attenuated. The second is, you can take the virus and kill it – or inactivated. We have had such vaccines for a long period of time. We have live attenuated vaccines like measles, mumps, rubella.

Then there are new methods. One is a subunit vaccine. That is you take parts of the virus, not the whole, and you can inject it to people. Then you have the one that uses the mRNA technique, where you take the genetic material of the virus, and then coat it with lipid and get into the cells. So, this molecule called mRNA it’s generally unstable, and when it goes into the cell it is changed by a part of the cell called ribosome into proteins. And the protein is recognised by the immune system and you make an immune response.

The important fact is that mRNA does not get attached to the DNA, because there is a question if it gets integrated or attached. It doesn’t because it breaks down. That’s the reason why -70 or -20o Celsius has to be used when storing and transporting these vaccines.

The last method is where we use another viral vector. As we say, it’s a carrier. The Oxford vaccine, the AstraZeneca vaccine, used a chimpanzee adenovirus – a virus that causes colds in chimpanzees – it has no chimpanzee material, just the virus. They took this virus and put the spike protein part of the SARS-CoV-2 into it. When it is taken to the cell then the protein is produced, and then you find that the immune system recognises it. That is the Oxford AstraZeneca vaccine.

You said there is no chimpanzee material in AstraZeneca. Is there pig material or cow material in this vaccine?

A: No, there is no pig material. Absolutely no human or animal material in vaccines.

Are there any chips in the vaccine where that Government can monitor your movements?

A: Absolutely not! It doesn’t come into the manufacturing process. Absolutely not.


Can this vaccine cause cancer?

A: So far, there is no signal, we know it’s been a short period, but they have been using mRNA vaccines actually for cancer treatment because that is where it was trialled. We would like to follow all these vaccines and look for any signals. But, there is no signal at the moment.

Because there are different types of vaccines around, some people find it difficult to trust the vaccines.

A: We cannot manage to vaccinate the whole world with one vaccine. You need several types of vaccines. No company can produce so many vaccines. One important thing from someone who is working in the field, who would not, as a scientist, as a clinician we would not accept things which are subpar for our patients. And, we know by looking at the information that has been released that the vaccine trials have been conducted in the way it should be. They are being looked at in detail by the different regulators, the country’s regulators, and they spend hours on end to see that it has been done properly.

Are all these vaccines in the higher safety margins?

A: Exactly. The important thing is we always talk about the vaccines that have been approved. But, we must remember that in Australia there was the CSL vaccine, which was found to be problematic. It was stopped. Pharmaceutical companies in the UK and France manufactured a vaccine, which was again found to be not effective. It was also stopped. We only hear about the vaccines that have really been approved.

Are all the vaccines that have been approved very safe?

A: We as clinicians and scientists go through the publications. But the regulators have the actual primary data from these different patients and they have gone in detail. And, it’s across the regulators. I mean, you have the British regulators, the European regulators, WHO came out telling that AstraZeneca could be given to all ages. Then you have the U.S. regulator, FDA, which is not an easy regulator to please. I mean, they’re very stringent. These vaccines have gone through these regulators. It’s not that someone is just saying that this vaccine should be taken.

Is there a vaccine that is specifically for the developing world?

A: Some of the vaccines require special storage and transportation conditions. This is difficult to meet in certain areas in Asia and Africa. Secondly, some of the RNA vaccines cost far more to get compared to viral vector vaccines. AstraZeneca is given to the world at a cost. It’s about USD 3 per dose. Also, the Oxford vaccine is licensed through the Serum Institute of India, which is manufacturing it. This is the one that is being now used in Sri Lanka, where they use it on medical personnel, and that vaccine can be stored at 4-8 degrees in the fridge. Therefore, for countries like Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, the Maldives, that is a wonderful combination of being low cost, effective vaccine and that it can be stored in the fridge rather than needing special storage facilities.

The Serum Institute of India is one of the biggest manufacturers of vaccines in the world. It’s like a vaccine factory in the world. This is a UK licensed vaccine, which is produced in India. It’s also being given to the neighbouring countries.

What percentage of the world needs to be vaccinated?

A: At least 60 to 70 per cent to get herd immunity. Initially they will focus on high risk groups, and then move on to the other groups.

If we don’t vaccinate, what percentage of people might die?

A: You can see the number of people who have died. But, more than a million. In addition to deaths, it is affecting health services. We are finding it impossible to manage some of the ITUs.

Can pregnant women and children be vaccinated?

A: Yes, pregnant mothers who are in the high risk group such as healthcare workers can have the vaccine. It is safe for pregnant mothers. It has still not been licensed for children because the trials were over the age of 18.

Will the vaccine work for the new variants?

A: There is the new UK variant, the new South African variant, the Brazilian, the Los Angeles, and now other additional variants of the UK variant. There are few things you look with regard to a variant. Does it increase transmissibility, does it increase infection, severity of the infection, does it affect the testing, and does it affect the vaccine response. So far, what has been found is increased transmissibility by a lot of these different variants. However, most of the vaccines can manage the UK variant. But, the South African variant is the troubling variant. Some of the lab and clinical work is showing that the vaccines may not be as effective. We know about the small trial in Oxford vaccine in South Africa where they found it was not very protective for mild to moderate infections in South Africa.

There are a number of misconceptions surrounding the COVID-19 vaccine. One of them is that smokers and those who consume alcohol should not get vaccinated. Is this correct?

A: Absolutely not. Smokers belong to the high risk category. Some Western countries, especially the U.S., have prioritised smokers because they are in the higher risk group for getting severe symptoms.

Can the vaccine cause infertility?

A: This is a very common concern among young couples. But, this has absolutely no truth. The vaccine is very safe; it cannot affect the reproductive system in any way. There seems to be a lot of misconceptions regarding the COVID-19 vaccines, even among health professionals. Therefore, it is important to get correct information.

After getting the vaccine, will a person test positive for COVID-19?

A: You won’t test positive in the PCR test. That is very important because some people want to travel and they want to ensure that they’re negative. The important thing is the lab should get the correct antibody test and the general public should not worry about the technicalities.

Will there be allergic reactions?

A: There have been some cases of allergic reactions when it came to mRNA vaccines. But, when it came to AstraZeneca vaccine, allergic reactions have not come to focus as a major issue.

What are the side effects of taking this vaccine? And will they get worse with the second dose?

A: All medications and vaccines produce mild side effects. But, we try to mitigate those effects and ensure that they are not severe. So that risk benefit is very much in the favour rather than any side effect component. With this vaccine you will get local tenderness, swelling, fever, some chills, headache, fatigue, etc. But the important thing is, from observations around the world, those are classified as mild to moderate and they recovered very quickly. We wouldn’t want any severe adverse effects. So far, the observation is these vaccines are not producing that.

Do those who have already got the COVID-19 infection and have recovered still need to get the vaccine?

A: You are expected to get the vaccine whether you had COVID or not. That’s important. If they already have immune response, a vaccine dose will strengthen that immunity. What I would advise such patients, is to take paracetamol and antihistamine. They do not affect the immune response. They only reduce the reactogenicity.

How safe it is to travel after getting the two doses of the vaccine? Can people avoid the quarantine?

A: The important thing to remember is we have to remember that the vaccine efficacy has been worked out against getting the symptomatic disease. The amount of data on the carriage of the virus and transmission is still limited. Oxford has tried to do that and it has shown that PCR positivity has reduced. There is a positive direction from there with regards to reducing transmission. Even after getting the vaccine you have to follow proper social distancing, wearing masks, and travel will open at the appropriate time once a certain number of the population has been vaccinated, because we’re striving for the 60-70 per cent to create herd immunity. The important thing is, just because you get the vaccine doesn’t mean tomorrow you should get rid of the mask and have big gatherings.

By Vindya Amaranayake
Ceylon Today

SLF 2012 Award Winner for “Outstanding Performance by Young Professional, Melony Mahaarachchi-SpaceX and NASA Mars 2020 Engineer and how she became a Real-Life Rocket Scientists

“Within my first three months as SpaceX, I was in charge of rocket engine electrical cables. My heart was pounding and I wanted to run and come home – it was a huge responsibility. ” – Melony Mahaarachchi

Melony Mahaarachchi is a prolific mechanical, robotics, and rocket engineer. She came to the United States with her husband and two young children from Sri Lanka, and built her career completely from scratch after graduating from UCLA with a degree in mechanical engineering.

Melony has worked at SpaceX, Boeing, and NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) on the Mars Rover 2020 mission. At SpaceX, Melony worked very closely with the one and only Elon Musk on Merlin Engine design team for the Falcon 9 rocket. (Read her story on Refinery29)!

Influenced by her own personal and professional experience, she founded a non-profit iSTEM Without Borders in 2015 to empower young women in STEM careers.

In this conversation, we discuss:

What working with Elon Musk was REALLY like at SpaceX Breaking barriers and overcoming adversity in her early life in Sri Lanka.

The importance of asking for what you want and learning how to negotiate
Much, much more…

For more information go to:www.southasianstoriespodcast.com

Outstanding Research Award, The Canadian Phytopathological Society

Dr. Dilantha Fernando joined the Department of Plant Science at the University of Manitoba in 1998 and was promoted to full professor in 2006. Dr. Fernando’s research has had a tremendous impact on Canadian agriculture and the discipline of plant pathology. He has led innovative research in plant disease management and shown exceptional productivity, authoring or co- authoring 145 peer-reviewed articles, 15 book chapters, 78 proceeding papers and more than 240 abstracts. During his time at the University of Manitoba, Dr. Fernando has secured more than $33 million in external funding for his program, and grower groups and government agencies consult with him regularly on disease-related issues associated with both crop production and international trade. He is known nationally and internationally as a leader in epidemiology and disease management, especially on blackleg of canola. Dr. Fernando has supervised 31 graduate students, 80 highly qualified personnel and taught many plant pathology courses.

He was the President of the Canadian Phytopathological Society in 2018-2019, and the American Phytopathological Society recognized him as a Fellow in 2019.

Dr. Fernando is a world authority on blackleg of canola. His research on blackleg pathotypes led to industry-wide efforts on R-gene rotations in canola production to reduce the risk of resistance breakdown, and helped seed companies to select effective R-genes for breeding new blackleg resistant canola cultivars. His lab contributed substantially to the development of 37 canola or HEAR (high erucic acid rapeseed) canola cultivars with excellent resistance to blackleg, white rust and Fusarium wilt. Canada Post honored this team effort and the achievement of developing the first Round-Up Ready HEAR cultivar with a stamp issued on 28 February 2002. By providing sound disease management advice based on his research, Dr. Fernando has built an excellent reputation in the canola industry and among producers. Dr. Fernando’s stature in blackleg research also is recognized internationally, with his research and collaborations with other Canadian scientists being instrumental in addressing a blackleg-related trade dispute with China.

Dr. Fernando’s research on Fusarium head blight (FHB) of wheat has also had tremendous impact. His pioneering studies on the dynamics of ascospore release, dispersal and ensuing infection substantially increased knowledge of the epidemiology of this important disease. Several novel findings in the epidemiology, population genetics, population structure, genotypic diversity and genetic variability have been published following Dr. Fernando’s earlier studies. His recent efforts to understand the population structure of Fusarium graminearum on the Canadian Prairies have led to an improved focus on the detection of toxin-producing fungal strains and the improved safety of the food and feed industry. Dr. Fernando’s lab was also instrumental in setting up the first wheat nursery for FHB resistance screening in Canada. This nursery, along with a blackleg nursery in Carman, MB, has helped breeders screen new materials for disease resistance efficiently.

Dr. Fernando is also a pioneer in advancing the biological control of crop diseases in Canada. One of the seminal papers stemmed from Dr. Fernando’s discovery of unique organic volatile compounds in Pseudomonas chlororaphis PA23, which inhibit sclerotium formation as well as spore production from overwintering structures of Sclerotinia sclerotiorum. His studies on the mechanisms of biocontrol have led to many novel discoveries, including antibiosis and its differential efficacy against different plant pathogens, gene expression/regulation mechanisms, and biofilm formation in biocontrol.

In recognition of his outstanding research in plant pathology and crop disease management, the far-reaching impact of his work on the crop industry in Canada, as well as extraordinary outreach, Dr. Fernando received the 2020 Canadian Phytopathological Society Award for Outstanding Research.

Dr. Ananda Wijewickrama; first health official to receive COVISHIELD vaccine

Senior Consultant Physician at the Infectious Diseases Hospital (IDH) Dr. Ananda Wijewickrama, became the first healthcare official to receive the COVISHIELD vaccine in Sri Lanka, State Minister Dr. Sudarshani Fernandopulle said.

He was inoculated during a special programme held at the IDH while a senior nurse at the hospital became the second health official to receive the vaccine.

State Minister of Primary Health Services, Pandemics and COVID Prevention Dr. Sudarshani Fernandopulle said it was expected to vaccinate 2,000 within today.

“An individual will be administered with two doses of the vaccine and the second one will be given after two weeks of the first dose,” she said.

“The vaccination drive was initially scheduled to start in mid-February or early March. However, we are able to launch it in January itself due to cordial relationships between India and Sri Lanka,” she added.

She expressed these views at the special programme held to kick off the vaccination drive at the IDH.

India donated 500,000 Oxford AstraZeneca vaccines and the first consignment arrived in Sri Lanka on Thursday (28).

Accordingly, the vaccination programme commenced at the Colombo National Hospital, Colombo South Teaching Hospital in Kalubowila, Colombo North Teaching Hospital in Ragama, Homagama Base Hospital, Colombo East Base Hospital in Mulleriyawa and the Infectious Disease Hospital (IDH) in Angoda. (Sheain Fernandopulle)

for more information:http://www.dailymirror.lk

Sri Lanka kicks off COVID vaccination drive

Sri Lanka’s COVID-19 vaccination drive was kicked off this morning and three soldiers in the frontline of fighting COVID-19 was vaccinated with COVISHIELD vaccine at the Army Hospital in Narahenpita.

This Covidshield vaccine injected in two doses per person to be used at Colombo National Hospital, Ragama Hospital and six other hospitals, including the Colombo Army Hospital and the Panagoda Army Hospital today.

From tomorrow, it will be taken to other areas hospitals and all Army Hospitals to be vaccinated.

for more information:http://www.dailymirror.lk