The government needs to take swift actions to make up for the gap in supply of anti-Covid19 vaccines in the country. Many vaccinations centres, including those in major cities of Karachi, Lahore and Rawalpindi, had to be closed towards the end of the last week after the vaccine doses ran out of stock. People approaching the various vaccination centres were sent back. While some of them were disappointed, some were vocally angry. In Lahore and Islamabad, people swarmed the Expo Centre demanding the provision of AstraZeneca jabs after the inoculations were halted due to a shortage. These people were the ones who intend to travel abroad and want to get vaccinated before the expiry of their visas.
While the vaccination drive has resumed with the government securing 1.55 million doses of SinoVac, the supply is small enough to last longer. The government has also signed an agreement with Pfizer Pakistan for supply of 13 million doses, but according to Dr Faisal Sultan, the de facto health minister, the delivery will be made towards the end of the ongoing year. There are reports of another 2 to 3 million vaccine doses coming up from China. The government needs to step up efforts for vaccine procurement from China and elsewhere so that the vaccination drive could continue without any more interruptions.
According to officials, at least 13,484,364 doses of the various vaccines have been administered in Pakistan so far. Assuming that every person needs two doses, more than 6.7 million people, or around 3% of the total population, have been completely vaccinated in the country. Coupled with smart lockdown measures and enforcement of SOPs, the vaccination drive is by and large paying dividends. The number of deaths from Covid has come down to 30 during the last 24 hours as against 201 on April 28. The number of new cases has also fallen to 907 from more than 5,000 during much of April. The government must try and ensure there is no further hold-up in the vaccination process.
Published in The Express Tribune, June 23rd, 2021.