Karachi runs low on Sinovac vaccine

‘Doses reserved for those coming for second shot during temporary shortage’


Sameer Mandhro August 04, 2021
People stand outside the Khaliqdina Hall vaccination centre where gates were closed reportedly due to shortage of doses. PHOTO: NNI

KARACHI:

A shortage of the Sinovac vaccine was witnessed in the metropolis on Tuesday.

The Sindh health department and several coronavirus vaccination centres confirmed to The Express Tribune that given limited doses of the Chinese vaccine, preference was being given to citizens coming for their second jab.

However, the health department assured, there is enough stock available of the other coronavirus vaccines, including Sinopharm, Cansino, AstraZeneca, Moderna, Pfizer and PakVac. Nonetheless, delays in transportation of doses to centres meant that services were temporarily suspended at some vaccination centres much to the chagrin of citizens.

The fourth wave of the coronavirus and increased penalties for unvaccinated individuals, such as suspension of salaries of government employees, pressure on private businesses to ensure their employees are inoculated, travel restrictions besides the threat of blocking mobile phone sims of unvaccinated individuals have led to crowding at vaccination centres in recent days.

Second jab

"There is no Sinovac vaccine," read a placard on display at the gate of Khaliq Dina Hall on MA Jinnah Road on Tuesday.

"We do not have enough stock [of Sinovac] to entertain people coming for the first dose," said a vaccinator at the facility. "Only those due for their second jab are being administered this vaccine."

Scores of citizens who had visited the centre in hopes of receiving the Sinovac jab were turned away. "I wanted to get Sinovac but I was told at the gate to come after a few days," said one such citizen, Abdul Shakoor.

The centre in-charge, Syed Farhat Abbas, told The Express Tribune that the shortage was being monitored. "We are not out of stock," he said, adding that roughly 7,000 people were being inoculated at the facility daily. Citizens who were administered Sinovac for their first shot are being prioritised now given the shortage, he said.

A similar situation was observed at other vaccination centres across the metropolis.

Dr Saher Fatima at the vaccination centre in Lyari told The Express Tribune that the number of citizens visiting the centre has increased exponentially. Over 10,000 people received jabs on Sunday and over 12,000 on Monday, she said. There isn't enough stock of the Sinovac doses so people coming for their second shot for the vaccine are being prefered. There is, however, enough stock of the other coronavirus vaccines for those who are coming in for the first jab, she assured.

Transportation snag

Meanwhile, sources within the health department confirmed that the backup stock of the Sinovac vaccine was not being delivered to the vaccination centres. Instead, the staff at the centres have been directed to not administer Sinovac to citizens coming in for their first dose.

However, East District Health Officer Dr Ayoub denied these reports. He maintained that there was no shortage of any of the vaccines and the delays on Tuesday happened only because the doses were not delivered in time.

Around 21,600 citizens were administered the jabs at the city's largest facility, the Expo Centre, on Monday, he said, maintaining that there was enough stock of all the vaccines.

Sufficient doses

Speaking to The Express Tribune, Parliamentary Secretary on Health Qasim Siraj Soomro said that there were enough doses of the other vaccines. "We have around 111,000 doses of different vaccines at the Expo Centre," he said.

Read More: Single-day vaccine shots top 1m

He did confirm, however, that the provincial government was running low on its supply of the Sinovac vaccine. "We do not have it in store right now."

Soomro said that the National Command and Operation Centre (NCOC) has assured the Sindh government that the required doses will be provided within 24 hours. The provincial government has enough stock of the Sinovac vaccine to last for three days, he said, explaining why only those who were due their second jab for it were being given preference currently.

The Sindh government has expanded the vaccination network across the city to facilitate citizens, he said. "There are over 85 vaccination centres functioning in the city."

Urging citizens to not hesitate approaching the vaccination centres, Soomro said that of the 843 coronavirus patients on high dependency units or ventilators across the province, only five per cent were those who had received their first jab. The majority of such patients were those who were not vaccinated, he apprised. "This proves [any coronavirus] vaccine can save lives."

According to the health department's data, only two per cent of Sindh's population has been fully vaccinated, however. And 99 per cent of the fully vaccinated individuals are aged above 60 years.

Published in The Express Tribune, August 4th, 2021.

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