Citizens heading to the Expo Centre for their second Covid jab were turned away and directed to come back after 17 days as Sindh health authorities doubled the gap between the first and second doses of Sinovac and Sinopharm on Monday, when vaccination centres reopened after temporary closures amid shortage of doses.
A squabble reportedly broke out between citizens, including the elderly, and the police guards posted at the mass vaccination centre.
"We have been waiting for hours and now have been told to come after 17 days," said a citizen, *Imran, speaking to The Express Tribune. He maintained that Monday's date - June 21 - was the date given to him by the medical staff at Expo Centre when he received his first jab. "We are not [being] guided properly and then the security staff misbehaves," he lamented.
One of the other citizens, who lodged complaints at the 1166 number, told The Express Tribune, "I was told by the operator to go and get vaccinated.
"It is the responsibility of government to guide citizens in advance," said *Salman, another citizen. He added that he had taken a half day at work to receive his second shot.
Meanwhile, Jinnah Postgraduate Medical Centre Executive Director Dr Seemin Jamali confirmed to The Express Tribune that the second doses of Sinovac and Sinopharm will now be administered six weeks after the first jab instead of four and three weeks, respectively, under the provincial government's directives.
The Sindh health department's directives came on the heels of similar instructions issued by the National Command and Operation Centre late on Sunday night.
More doses arrive
On Monday, although the Sindh health authorities claimed that over 400,000 doses had been delivered to different centres and the inoculation process resumed, confusion prevailed at various centres.
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"The priority is for those who need the second dose of Sinopharm," said East District Health Officer Dr Ashfaq Ahmed, contrary to what citizens reported on the day.
All vaccination centres in his district, including the Expo Centre, were operational on the day, insisted Dr Ahmed. "There should not be any confusion. Twenty-eight days does not mean come on that day, it means to come after the stipulated time," he said, adding that most citizens were troubled because of this confusion. "I would suggest that citizens do no panic. We will have more vaccines coming in. The shortage was temporary," he assured. Similarly, South District Health Officer Dr Raj Kumar, assured "We do not say no to anyone." Only satellite centres were closed earlier, he claimed.
Meanwhile, after remaining closed for four days, vaccination centers in Hyderabad also reopened on the day. District Health Officer Lala Jaffar informed that 20,000 doses were delivered to Hyderabad. All 20 vaccination centres are now operational and will remain open from 8am to 8pm, he added.
*with additional input by Z Ali
Published in The Express Tribune, June 22nd, 2021.