The government will start vaccinating people aged 60 and above against Covid-19 on Wednesday (today), Dr Faisal Sultan, Special Assistant to Prime Minister on Health, said in a tweet.
“Pak Covid-19 vaccination, next phase — starting 10 March, inshallah. Beginning with the senior most citizens, who will receive SMS with instructions on their cell phones,” the SAPM tweeted.
Prime Minister Imran Khan had inaugurated the coronavirus vaccination campaign for frontline health care workers (HCWs) on Feb 2 when Dr Rana Imran was given a jab with Chinese fi rm Sinopharm’s vaccine at the Prime Minister’s Office. Vaccinations started across the country the next day, but the authorities had second thoughts after a study concluded that the vaccine was not suitable for the elderly.
It was therefore decided that senior citizens (those aged 60 and above) would be vaccinated with the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine.
But since the delivery of the very first consignment of the latter vaccine was delayed, the Drug Regulatory Authority of Pakistan (Drap) allowed vaccination of the elderly with Sinopharm’s vaccine as it is for now the only option available in the country.
The decision was taken on the basis of a study in which data of 339 elderly people given Sinopharm’s vaccine in China, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain was submitted by the company.
The study found that the vaccine caused no major side-effects among senior citizens.
China had sent a consignment of 500,000 doses of the vaccine last month and another consignment of as many doses is expected to reach the country soon.
In addition, the Pakistan Army has donated to the government a consignment it received as a gift from China for the benefi t of health care workers.
An official of the Ministry of National Health Services said the vaccination process would proceed in “reverse order by age”, meaning that the eldest registered people would be vaccinated first because they are more vulnerable to the disease.
According to the National Command and Operation Centre (NCOC), as many as 1,353 cases of coronavirus infection and 54 deaths were reported on Tuesday.
The number of active cases stood at 16,349 while the number of patients in hospitals across the country was 2,105 and 233 of them were on ventilator.
The national health ministry on Tuesday allowed the vaccination of senior Pakistani citizens living abroad after SAPM Dr Sultan, reacting to reports that the individuals in question had been declared ineligible, ordered the authorities concerned to ensure that holders of Pakistan Origin Card (POC) were vaccinated.
Javed Akhtar, a Pakistani living abroad, told Dawn that he had registered himself by sending a copy of his Computerised National Identity Card (CNIC), but his American wife, who had a POC, was not registered as the helpline declared the number invalid.
“However, on Tuesday I managed to register my wife, through her POC number, for vaccination and received a message that she will be vaccinated at a centre of the Pakistan Institute of Medical Sciences on March 11,” Mr Akhtar said in his message of thanks.
According to the National Database and Registration Authority (Nadra), over 180,000 Pakistanis living in other countries had been issued POCs.