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Coronavirus
LOW Source: covid.gov.pk
Pakistan Deaths
28,704
724hr
Pakistan Cases
1,283,886
41124hr
0.92% positivity
Sindh
475,097
Punjab
442,876
Balochistan
33,471
Islamabad
107,601
KPK
179,888

The vaccination program in Pakistan has hit a new milestone this week—30 million doses have been administered across the country and daily vaccine offtake is now crossing 1 million doses which is more than three times the average daily jabs that were being given during June. This is an astonishing pace for the country. In fact, most major cities in Pakistan will fully meet their target population for vaccination by Dec-21.

As observed in other countries, more vaccinations have led to a reduced fear or hesitancy for getting the jab. Gallup’s latest wave tracking consumer sentiments on covid-19 (for Jul-21) finds that less people believe the threat of the coronavirus is exaggerated than before. Last year, this sentiment peaked at 70 percent of respondents. Nearly a year later, now, 55 percent believe the threat is exaggerated which is still more than half the people but at least lower than before. This belief was the highest in Sindh in the previous tracker (66%) but has come down to 59 percent. Given how fast the delta variant is spreading in Karachi, it is very crucial that folks in the city take the virus seriously. Otherwise, it would become very difficult for the city’s administration to enforce SOPs and increase vaccine offtake.

Evidently, it is this fear on the part of the Sindh government and its lack of trust in the people that the government announced drastic measures to ensure people get vaccinated—which include withholding staff salaries and warning that unvaccinated people would have to face getting their sim cards blocked. Though neither measure has been implemented, where the latter cannot happen without the approval of the federal government, it does show that the administrators are scared and willing to go guns blazing with forced vaccinations coupled with stricter lockdowns, if need be. It remains a matter of great discourse whether any government should or should not force its citizens to get the covid-19 vaccine and face such radical penalties in case they don’t (read: “Tacking the Greek tragedy”, Aug 3, 2021). But with more than half of the surveyed population in Sindh believing the virus is an exaggeration, the provincial government’s fear is very valid, especially considering the high transmissibility of the delta strain.

At the country-level, people believing the virus is a foreign conspiracy have reduced in number—37 percent compared to the peak at 55 percent in July last year. This is certainly a welcome change. Here too, Sindh stands the tallest—where 42 percent of respondents believed in this conspiracy theory against 35 percent and 33 percent respondents hailing from Punjab and KPK respectively.

The other change that has happened is on the question of getting the jab itself. One thing is clear, between Dec till now, certainly more people are decisive about the vaccine than before. At that time, nearly 13 percent either did not respond or said they did not know if they would get the jab. This number has come down to only 4 percent since the vaccination drive began. More people believe they would get the vaccine compared to Dec-20—66 percent vs 38 percent. However, compared to the March-round of the survey where only 26 percent said they won’t get the vaccine, now nearly 30 percent believe they will not get the vaccine. That’s a pretty high share. This might not be a very clear-cut shift towards a “no” but it does indicate that as more people become decisive about the vaccine, they are not necessarily become pro-vaccine and may even have succumbed to the anti-vax propaganda circulating on social media.

Amidst all this, the federal government should be pleased with itself because 76 percent respondents believed the government was doing really well in controlling covid-19 while 88 percent believed that covid-19 can be successfully controlled in the future. The government to its part is confident. There are no plans for a country-wide lockdown and the centre is focusing very much on SOPs and the vaccination drive that has definitely ramped up. The other areas where both the federal and provincial governments—especially Sindh—should lend their resources to a) dismantling fake news and misinformation on the virus and the vaccines through advocacy using all medium available, and b) ensuring that vaccine administration is operating at maximum capacity and those people who want to get the vaccine are able to without any hiccups and delays.

But even with all areas of intervention being targeted, and key milestones on vaccinations being hit, there is a still a long road to cover. For instance, the next step for the country is procuring booster shots. Unquestionably, covid-19 is a beast and the governments should not rest until it is truly beat.

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