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KARACHI: Around 50 percent population of Karachi, Pakistan’s mega city and business hub, particularly females and labourers in informal workplaces, could still not be vaccinated against Covid-19 pandemic due to misinformation and disinformation, reveals a report on Thursday.

According to the Sindh Health Department’s data, Karachi has 12.85 million people above 12 years of age out of which 6.7 million (around 50%) have been vaccinated so far. The official statistics endorse the impression about the slow pace of vaccination in the city.

Elaborating the impact of false and misleading information about vaccine, Pakistan Medical Association (PMA) Secretary-General Dr Qaiser Sajjad said, “False information is being circulated on social media that those getting vaccination will die after two years or suffer infertility or the vaccine jabs will develop a microchip in arm through which location of the vaccinated persons will be monitored by foreign countries.” He said there is no truth in these misleading rumours.

He said that the public willingness to get the vaccine increased in Karachi after the government warned the citizens of stopping their salaries, disconnecting cell phones, banning air travel and restricting entry of students above 12 years of age in educational institutions in case of not getting the jabs.” The people’s willingness also surged when private organizations made vaccination mandatory for all their employees with SOPs.

The majority of health and other civil society experts believe that the government’s coercive measures might be a good way for the protection of the people from Covid pandemic.

“Conspiracy theories, rumours and mis/disinformation about COVID-19 vaccines are circulating not only in Pakistan but also across the world that has affected the acceptance for vaccines among many people,” said Muhammad Naeem Qureshi, President at National Forum for Environment and Health Karachi.

Karachi tops the list of most populous cities of Pakistan with a population of 14.91 million. The first case of COVID-19 had been confirmed in this mega city on 26 February 2020, when a patient in Karachi tested positive for the virus while returning from Iran.

To combat the pandemic, the federal government had constituted a high-level National Command and Operation Centre (NCOC) to synergize and articulate unified national effort and to implement the decisions of National Coordination Committee (NCC) on COVID-19.

Dr Qasier says Covid jabs have very minor side effects like slight fever in some people, especially in those having a weak immune system. The vaccines do not cause side effects in all people as they are safe and well recognized by WHO. There is no death case reported from Covid vaccines in Pakistan as yet, which shows there is no harm from the vaccination, he said.

“Even with new variants’ arrival, vaccines remain one of the most effective tools to protect people against serious illness and death from SARS-COV-2,” said Dr Mariângela Simão, WHO Assistant-Director General for Access to Medicines and Health Products. ‘This aims to increase access particularly in lower-income countries, 41 of which have still not been able to vaccinate 10% of their populations, while 98 countries have not reached 40%.”

Sindh health department data shows that a total of 1,025 ventilators are available in Karachi out of which 550 are allocated for Covid patients while only 84 are in use by the Covid patients. Number of beds available with oxygen facility are 2,619 out of which 7,562 are allocated for Covid patients while only 502 are in use by the Covid patients. This shows that the Sindh government has made sufficient arrangements to tackle Covid situation.

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