PM’s aide reluctant to give date of vaccine’s arrival

Published January 3, 2021
In this file photo, Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Health Dr Faisal Sultan addresses the media. — APP
In this file photo, Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Health Dr Faisal Sultan addresses the media. — APP

ISLAMABAD: While Sindh Health Minister Dr Azra Fazal Pechuho had stated that the federal government would supply 250,000 Covid-19 vaccine doses to the province by mid-January, Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Health Dr Faisal Sultan seems to be reluctant to confirm the date.

“We are trying to get 1.1 million doses of the vaccine at the earliest but I cannot commit when the vaccine will be received. If I give a date of Jan 16, I might prove myself wrong on Jan 17. I have not heard Dr Pechuho’s statement therefore it would not be appropriate to comment on it. However, time to time we contact each other and I can surely say that she is a very competent and responsible woman,” Dr Sultan said while talking to Dawn.

It is worth mentioning that on Jan 1, Provincial Vaccine Administration Coordination Cell (PVACC) was notified by the Sindh government.

Later, while presiding over a meeting, Dr Pechuho reportedly stated that the National Command and Operation Centre (NCOC) and the National Vaccine Task Force had committed to supply the province with 250,000 doses by mid-January.

She had said that in the first phase healthcare providers performing duties in Covid-19 wards and other frontline workers engaged in handling patients would be administered the vaccine. She also instructed the staff to prepare data of those working in public and private healthcare system to include them in the first phase of vaccine administration.

Dr Sultan said 1.1 million doses had been booked from China’s state-owned company, Sinopharm.

Refuses to comment on Dr Pechuho’s recent statement; NCOC records 82 deaths, 2,184 new cases

“As two doses will be given to each person, the vaccine will be administered to 500,000 frontline workers. There is also a 10 per cent margin of the vaccine getting spoiled, therefore, overall 1.1 million doses have been booked,” he said.

When asked about the provincial health minister’s statement, Dr Sultan said 250,000 was the overall share of the vaccine which would be given to 125,000 frontline workers in the province.

“I assume that she wanted to share the number of overall vaccines allocated for the province. I cannot give any date for the arrival of the vaccine, however, we have been trying to get it at the earliest,” the special assistant said.

An official of the Ministry of National Health Services, requesting not to be named, said he was astonished to hear the provincial minister giving a clear date about when the vaccine would be acquired.

“Though we have been trying to get the first consignment of vaccine by the mid of January, we cannot give a date. Even if we receive the first consignment of the vaccine - which can be a few hundred thousand, by Jan 15 - it does not mean that Sindh will get its entire share at once. The consignment will be divided among provinces as per their population,” he added.

“Provinces have been asked by the NCOC to start making preparations for the expected arrival of the vaccine around mid January. The intention is to conduct a dry run of the system before hand and initiate vaccination drive around the end of January or early February,” he said.

Casualties mount

The country recorded 82 deaths and 2,184 new cases on Saturday, with Karachi figuring on top with the highest positivity rate.

According to data released by the NCOC, out of the 82 people who lost their lives, 44 had been on ventilators.

As many as 301 ventilators out of the total allocated for Covid-19 patients were in use in Pakistan. In Islamabad, 42 per cent vents were occupied, 41pc were in use in Multan, Peshawar, 35pc and Lahore, 32pc. However, no patient in Azad Kashmir, Gilgit-Baltistan and Balochistan required a ventilator.

Data of oxygenated beds showed that in Peshawar, 59pc were in use, Multan, 36pc; Islamabad, 33pc and Karachi, 32pc beds were occupied.

A total of 35,130 active cases were recorded in the country while the number of deaths had reached 10,258. As many as 2,264 Covid-19 patients were in critical condition on Saturday.

According to the NCOC, the national positivity ratio stood at 5.81pc with the highest seen in Karachi at 15.77pc, followed by Peshawar, 15.54pc and Mirpur, 9.26pc.

The positivity rate in other federating units was Azad Kashmir, 8.52pc; Sindh, 8.1pc; Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, 5.38pc; Punjab 4.7pc; Balochistan, 3.82pc; Islamabad, 3.39pc and Gilgit-Baltistan, 1.41pc.

The national mortality ratio was recorded at 2.12pc compared to 2.18pc globally. In Pakistan, 69pc patients were male, 77.5pc were over the age of 50, 73pc had chronic comorbidities and 91pc of the deceased had remained hospitalised.

Rawalpindi

There was a significant fall in the number of daily Covid-19 patients as 16 cases were reported in Rawalpindi on Saturday.

However, three people lost their struggle against the virus.

Jamila Khatoon, 87, a resident of Dhoke Farman Ali, breathed her last at Rawalpindi Institute of Urology (RIU) where she was admitted on Dec 29.

Arif Qureshi, 66, a resident of Park Valley Bahria Town, also died at RIU on Saturday where he had been under treatment since Dec 14.

Syed Riaz Hussain, 85, from Murree, arrived at Pims on Jan 1 but died late Friday night.

The district has 893 active patients at present out of whom 359 were being treated at hospitals and 534 had been isolated at home. As many as 419 suspected patients are waiting for their results.

Since March, 12,898 people have contracted the virus in Rawalpindi district, 11,457 recovered and 548 passed away.

The number of Covid-19 patients has been decreasing during the last one week in the district but there has been no let-up in casualties as three or more patients are dying on a daily basis.

Commissioner retired Capt Mohammad Mehmood told Dawn that the number of patients had fallen but there was still a need to adopt safety measures, adding the district administrations were working on creating awareness among people to follow health guidelines.

He said the number of patients had, however, increased slightly in Jhelum and Chakwal compared to Rawalpindi and Attock as 16 people tested positive in Rawalpindi and two in Attock whereas 21 got infected in Jhelum and 18 in Chakwal.

Mr Mehmood said the death rate was still high in Rawalpindi district, adding there was still a need to observe precautions in bazaars and public places.

Taxila

The tehsil recorded four new cases, following which the tally has increased to 905.

Deputy District Officer Health Dr Sara Qadeer said all new patients belonged to Ward 2 of Wah Cantonment.

The number of active patients in the area has risen to 301 and all are isolated at home.

On the other hand, two people were infected in Attock district, taking the total tally of confirmed patients to 1,073.

District Health Authority Chief Executive Dr Jawad Elahi said all cases were from Hazro.

He said the number of active patients in the district was 155.

The health official said 890 patients had so far recovered while 26 succumbed to the deadly virus in the district. — Additional reporting by Amjad Iqbal

Published in Dawn, January 3rd, 2021

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