I am furious, worried and disappointed to observe the behaviour people in Pakistan have towards the Covid-19 vaccine. A few days ago, a close relative declared that the vaccine is linked to Dajjal. The man is so stubborn that he is ready to give away travelling, use of banking and all other facilities if at any stage they are linked with getting the corona vaccine. He is of the view that the treatment of Covid-19 is available in herbs like Sana Makki and others, hence we do not need the vaccine.
I experienced another similar incident when I asked a friend to get himself registered for the vaccine and he replied, ‘kuch nahin hota ji’ i.e. nothing will happen. This is not the reply of just one man but unfortunately, a large number of people in our society hold this mentality and dare I say that when something will happen, we will only be left helplessly regretting it.
There is another breed of so-called philosophers who think that the ongoing coronavirus vaccine is an attempt by global powers to fix some kind of chip into the Pakistani people to monitor them.
As if the above ridiculous arguments are not enough to confuse people, the favorite national argument that the ongoing vaccination drive is some kind of population control is also echoed. Dr Seemi Jamali, the Executive Director at Karachi’s Jinnah Postgraduate Medical Centre, in one of her conversations confirmed that the reluctance of people is linked to the myth that the vaccine will cause infertility or change their genetic code as well.
The anti-vaccine mindset prevailing in Pakistan was highlighted in a Gallup Pakistan poll conducted last month which showed that 37% of the population of Pakistan would not get a vaccine once it became available.
Pakistan’s vaccine administration rate is one of the lowest in South Asia, which is not good news. The slow pace of administering the Covid-19 vaccine is attributed to the government’s inefficiency on one hand and to the country’s population on the other hand, which is unfortunately so anti-vaccine that it quickly believes and shares material against the vaccine.
It is disturbing to observe that we as nation have a history of believing in the self-created myths against vaccines. The polio vaccine is a case in point. The government has to struggle against many unsolicited elements to administer the polio vaccine to the masses. Unfortunately, the administration of the polio vaccine is seen as a global conspiracy against Pakistan, because of which Pakistan along with Afghanistan is one of the two countries where the polio virus still exists.
I sometimes wonder that the people of Pakistan, particularly those living in the middle and lower strata of society, have some kind of superiority complex as they believe that the world is busy conspiring against them. Our people need to realise that it is not the global powers but unfortunately we, the people of Pakistan, that are our own enemy. Our illiteracy, poverty, and health status can be far worse if many international NGOs would not be operating in Pakistan.
The Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Health, Dr Faisal Sultan, is positive that Pakistan will acquire 18.7 million doses of the Covid vaccine till June 2021. For a country of more than 220 million people, this number is very less but with the prevailing negativity against vaccination, it will be a herculean task to consume even 70% of the available vaccine.
It is the responsibility of the government to use all the possible methods to eradicate the prevailing myths against the Covid-19 vaccination as we do not want the world to isolate us for our follies.
Published in The Express Tribune, May 13th, 2021.