Three months in and the stuttering vaccination drive in Pakistan seems to have finally shifted to second gear. According to Federal Minister Asad Umar, around 164,000 people had been vaccinated on May 3 and over 200,000 people were successfully inoculated the following day. As of May 6, Pakistan had vaccinated 3.32 million people — 0.8% of the population. The number of registrants has now exceeded 5 million. These are positive signs considering the rising mortality rate amidst the deadly third wave, which shows that the threat cannot be underestimated or downplayed at all.
Even though hundreds of vaccination centres were set up across the country, limited availability of the vaccine and widespread hesitancy due to conspiracy theories and disinformation had restricted the drive from the get go. A report published by Gallup Pakistan shows that 49% of the population were reluctant even if the vaccine was offered for free. However, this seems to have changed after the horrific scenes from India surfaced on social media. Thankfully, more and more people are now getting vaccinated. But, complaints too have increased. Many people have reported power outages in the centres while others have had to wait in long queues in the scorching heat. Some fake doctors have also been caught for fraudulently selling fake vaccines.
Nevertheless, with the recent inauguration of the country’s largest vaccination centre in the Karachi Expo Centre, which has the capacity to carry out 30,000 vaccinations per day, one cannot overlook the fact that the local governments are pushing hard. With that, it is equally important to resolve existing bottlenecks before the public is discouraged. It is still an uphill task as thousands of lower-income households constituting millions of people remain vulnerable. The true test will be in constructing an adequate plan to inoculate them considering their living conditions and lack of awareness. Time is of the essence and the third wave might not be as gracious as the first two.
Published in The Express Tribune, May 13th, 2021.