After surviving the first and second wave of Covid-19 successfully, Pakistan has unfortunately been severely hit by a third wave of the disease, beginning somewhere in March, it can be traced back mainly to the burst of the United Kingdom variant of Covid-19, a strain that is 60%-70% more infectious than any previous strains as well as the spread of the Brazilian and South African variants.
In April, at peak, Pakistan has seen an average of 5200 new covid cases emerging each day and at least 100 deaths every 24 hours with the death toll climbing to over 17000, undeniably a clear-cut and effective vaccination strategy is one of the key factors in leading the country out of this pandemic.
Pakistan’s immunization drive was thankfully kicked off in February when China gifted Pakistan with the Sinopharm vaccine along with the half that the government bought, 1.2 million doses of it, arriving in batches. Although the start of the drive was quite slow, the vaccinations are picking up a pace however as of now less than 1 percent of the country’s population has been vaccinated.
The NCOC originally announced in February that the country would receive about 17 million doses of the vaccine by the end of June however the delivery of vaccinations to Pakistan has been delayed, thanks to the high demand of the vaccine doses in the countries of production. A tweet by Dr. Faisal Sultan, the Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Health, on the 28th of April stated that 3 million vaccine doses have been received in the month of April, and another 13 million are expected to arrive by June. It further stated that 2 million vaccination doses have been successfully administered thus far and that almost 117,000 doses were administered only on the 27th of April.
The Government has taken an age categorized approach for organizing vaccinations for the public, citizens can register through SMS as well as a website, the registration system allows for a systematic method of delivering the coronavirus vaccines to the public while also promoting even distribution of the public at vaccination centers. Of course, healthcare workers are one of the top priorities furthermore walk-in vaccinations for all citizens above the age of 50 were announced on the 26th of April while registrations for citizens above the age of 40 have been opened. The younger public is receiving doses with credit to the private sector which secured about 50,000 vaccine doses of Sputnik V.
However, there are a few kinks in the system that the government will need to work out, since many of Pakistan’s lower-middle-class citizens do not have proper identification and documents, which makes it difficult for them to get registered. Other hindrances in establishing rapid vaccination include a reluctance in getting vaccinated due to false stories and beliefs such as vaccines causing infertility or mental disabilities.
Despite popular speculation and rumors, Dr. Faisal Sultan has confirmed that Pakistan is not simply dependent on other countries for vaccine dose donations and gifts and that the country is actively building a comprehensive plan to purchase the vaccines. The Special Assistant to Prime Minister on Health stated at a media briefing that they have signed contracts with three companies in order to obtain 30 million vaccine doses.
The situation is indeed becoming dire with each passing moment, especially since Pakistan crossed the highest number of recorded covid-19 cases in a single day since June, Asad Umar, the Minister for Planning, Development and Special Initiatives, has said that the government is planning to open up registration for the vaccine for all citizens, regardless of age, after Eid, which will definitely help increase the overall percentage of the vaccinated population. In other news regarding Eid, the Ministry of Interior has banned all different types of tourism, such as a ban on Inter-City and Inter-Provincial travel, a closure of tourist resorts and parks, and travel nodes during the Eid-Al-Fitr holidays to limit the spread of the virus.
Further exciting progress includes the statement of The National Institute of Health’s officials that states Pakistan has made arrangements to produce the CanSinoBio’s coronavirus vaccine locally, if this venture is successful, it may rapidly increase the pace at which the public can be vaccinated.