The Sindh government will be procuring the Cansino Biologics Covid-19 vaccine directly from China as it is available in the market and the Centre has permitted the province to import the jabs independently, said Sindh Health Minister Dr Azra Pechuho on Tuesday.
Addressing a press conference at the Sindh Assembly building, Dr Pechuho said that the provincial government has allocated a budget of Rs500 million to purchase the vaccine, and would find out the price of the single-dose vaccine on its own.
The health minister stated that the Sindh government wanted the most number of people to be vaccinated against the virus. "But our vaccination process is slow because the procurement process has been slow and we are receiving too few doses," she said, adding that her department was trying to administer all the jabs it was receiving.
Stressing that Covid-19 cases were ballooning across the country, she urged citizens to be mindful of the coronavirus-mandated standard operating procedures (SOPs). "The rate of infection is increasing and till over 70 per cent of the country's population is vaccinated, following the SOPs is the most reliable way to prevent the spread of this virus."
Jabs and centres
Elaborating on the number of anti-Covid jabs Sindh has received thus far, the health minister said that the Centre had initially sent a total of 362,000 doses for 181,000 people.
As many as 163,808 doses have been administered thus far to health workers and citizens from the general population. Of these, 59,586 jabs were second doses, which were primarily given to healthcare workers. Senior citizens have not been administered their second doses yet as the second jab is given 21 days after the first, she said.
She shared that 52,111 vaccine doses remain from the initial batch while 20,000 doses of China's Sinopharm vaccine were received by the province on Monday and another 200,000 doses are to be sent by the federal government later.
Moreover, Dr Pechuho said that 8,000 to 10,000 of the 60,000 doses of the Cansino vaccine, which Pakistan received today (Tuesday), would be given to Sindh.
The minister apprised that there were 175 adult vaccination centres across the province. Of which, 29 were in the metropolis, eight were in Hyderabad, and the remaining were located in different districts of the province.
In response to a question, Dr Pechuho said that the Covid-19 vaccines were effective and worked. A person who has been inoculated against the virus could still get infected by it but would only experience mild symptoms, if any.
Citizens aged 50 years and above can also register for the anti-Covid jabs, she said.
The minister further shared that the provincial government would be purchasing 200 ambulances through the World Bank.
Lower positivity rate in Sindh
According to Dr Pechuho, the reason behind the higher positivity rate in other provinces as compared to Sindh was because of a higher frequency of travelling in other regions. Besides, there was a higher presence of the UK strain of the coronavirus in other regions, especially in Punjab, she said. "This variant of Covid-19 though not stated to be more dangerous than the first, spreads faster and therefore can infect more people rapidly and cause more casualties."
Within one week there over 27,000 positive cases have emerged in Lahore (Punjab), over 9,000 in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, nearly 8,000 in Islamabad and 3,307 in Sindh, said Dr Pechuho. In the same duration there were 433 deaths in Punjab, 142 fatalities in K-P and 30 in Sindh, she added.
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The Sindh health department has begun to screen travellers on buses and at train stations to monitor the situation and take measures accordingly, apprised Dr Pechuho.
If a passenger has fever, they will have to be tested for the virus and their district would be notified, she elaborated. "Their districts will be notified and the passenger and their family would be asked to isolate at home for the next two weeks."
Sehwan Mela, PPP rally postponed
Given the rising number of positive cases in Punjab and elsewhere in the country, it was necessary for the Pakistan Peoples Party to postpone its rally in Rawalpindi, said Dr Pechuho. The rally was initially scheduled for April 4 to mark the death anniversary of former prime minister and PPP founder Zulfikar Ali Bhutto. She added that the Sehwan Mela had to be postponed as well as "there would be an influx of people travelling to attend [the two events] and given the upward trend in Covid-19 cases, this would only make matters worse."
Published in The Express Tribune, March 31st, 2021.