EDITORIAL: Rollout of the covid-19 vaccination commenced in this country with a special event at the PM’s House. As Prime Minister Imran Khan and some others looked on, a critical care specialist at Pakistan Institute of Medical Sciences, Dr Rana Imran Sikandar, received the first jab. The next day the National Command and Operation Centre launched the first phase of a countrywide immunization campaign for the frontline healthcare professionals. The second phase is to cover people over 65 years of age followed by those in the above 60-year-age bracket, and the third phase all others except those under 18 years. The aim, Special Assistant to the PM (SAPM) for Health Services Dr Faisal Sultan, told journalists, is to develop herd immunity by vaccinated 70 percent of the population. He went on to suggest that a large number of the people already infected by the virus do not need vaccination as they are unlikely to get re-infected; other health experts, however, say those having contracted infection also need to be vaccinated for a stronger and long-lasting immunity.
For the first phase of the immunization drive China has donated a million doses of its Sinopharm vaccine. The World Health Organization’s COVAX Facility is to provide another 17 million doses of AstraZeneca vaccine by June. Orders have also been placed for procuring vaccines form several other sources. According the SAPM, “we will have stocks of vaccine available for all the time.” It is good to know that the supplies will soon be plentiful. Administering the vaccine, though, may become a challenging task. Many even in developed counties are resisting vaccines, claiming they change the DNA. In Pakistan, where polio vaccine drives are violently opposed by a certain section of society as a Western conspiracy to reduce Muslim population by rendering children impotent, Covid-19 vaccines may not be accepted easily. Some otherwise sane people are apprehensive, too, about possible adverse side-effects. It is imperative therefore to raise public awareness about vaccine safety.
It is worth noting that the various vaccination kickoff events were overseen by the Prime Minister in Islamabad and chief ministers in all the four provincial capitals as well as in AJK and Gigit-Baltistan. But they did not get themselves vaccinated, unlike the top government leaders in other counties, such as the US and Russia, who received the first jabs to build public trust in vaccines. In our case, the PM and the CMs may have decided not to do that lest some thought they were taking advantage of their positions. Considering that there are many doubters, they need to be seen leading by example. As for the concerns about side-effects, it would be helpful to highlight the experience of Dr. Sikandar, the first Pakistani to get the jab. He told an interviewer that he did 4km jogging the same evening, and was in good health. The doctor also pointed that this vaccine is like any other people take as children such as BCG just after birth, polio vaccine till the age of five and several other vaccines throughout life. Other health experts should also be called on to address, through the media, any doubts that some people may have about the Covid-19 vaccines.
Copyright Business Recorder, 2021