EDITORIAL: When the National Command and Operation Centre (NCOC) headed by Minister for Planning, Development and Special Initiatives Asad Umar claimed 70 million people would be vaccinated by end of the current year, it appeared to be an unfeasible target. Not anymore. According to the latest NCOC data, over 62 million people have been fully vaccinated and another 62 million have received a first jab (the number includes people vaccinated in other counties but registered in Pakistan). At this rate, the country is not only well on course of covering 70 percent of the population -- necessary to achieve herd immunity - but is likely to surpass that target in the next two months. Minister Umar and his associates at the NCOC can pat themselves on the back for this impressive performance.
Already the national positivity rate for Covid-19 cases shows a notable downturn. During the last three months, the number of reported cases remained at around 2.6 percent. There is no room though for complacency. On a single day last Wednesday, 1,212 people tested positive for Covid and as many as 39 died from complications caused by the infection. It is good to note therefore that the NCOC, the body responsible for policy formulation and implementation regarding Covid-19, has now decided to directly approach unimmunised people in order to have them vaccinated. In a statement issued on Wednesday, it said a comprehensive plan has been devised in collaboration with the National Database and Registration Authority (NADRA) and district administrations to target tehsils which have lagged behind. Toward that end, unvaccinated people are to be traced using information technology, and persuaded to take the jab. Some may still remain resistant to vaccination. There is a plan to deal with such individuals as well, though not stated openly. As per some reported comments of an unnamed official of the Ministry of National Health Services, district administrations are to use their authority to get the needful done; in the event of their failure the police would to step in. This may look like coercive action and hence objectionable, but not so considering that what is at stake is the well-being of all. By now, it is more than clear that no one is safe from the scourge of Covid-19 until everyone is safe.
A related issue requiring attention is the issuance of vaccination certificates. The service is easily available to people vaccinated at government-designated centres, which initially administered only Chinese vaccines. But after certain countries refused to accept them, Western produced vaccines, such as Pfizer, Moderna and AstraZeneca, were given on a limited scale to people needing to travel to those destinations. Nonetheless, many had no choice but to get those shots from private sources or in military hospitals if they were dependents of military families. Since that is not registered with NADRA obtaining inoculation certificates for persons unofficially but properly vaccinated has become impossible. The relevant authorities need to resolve this issue one way or another. For, those having received a combination of two vaccines can get a third one only at the risk of inviting unforeseen consequences. Last but not least, the Oct 7 NCOC's decision through which it has asked or allowed all educational institutions in the country to restart classes from Monday (Oct 11) speaks volumes about the efficacy of the ongoing vaccination campaign.
Copyright Business Recorder, 2021