KARACHI: Fearing that Pakistan may become the last country to launch the vaccination programme due to the ‘lethargic’ attitude and ‘slow’ process of federal authorities, the Sindh government on Saturday “requested’ Islamabad to allow it to procure by itself the Covid-19 vaccine from different countries. 

“The way the federal government is toeing its vaccination procurement plan, I fear that Pakistan would be the last country to have such a cure,” Sindh Health Minister Dr Azra Pechuho told a press conference. 

Accompanied by Information Minister Syed Nasir Hussain Shah and the health secretary, she said: “We on our own have contacted a few countries and from China we got the response that we should come through our federal government. The challenge requires a speedy response. So I request the federal government to allow us procurement of the vaccines as well so we can expedite the process. We don’t want any interruption in the federal government’s plan but want to run our own drive parallel.” 

She said that the efforts of the Sindh government and the health authorities of the province managed to contain the spread of the virus to a large extent and now it should move towards the vaccine like other parts of the world. 

“Look at other countries like the UK, US, Europe all rushing for vaccines,” she said. “Even African countries have started procurement. India has started vaccination and so has Turkey. You have been left behind in the race. If we continue to sit back, our people will get sick and die. You will become a pariah internationally. Like polio, Pakistanis will be required to show a coronavirus vaccination certificate to travel in any part of the world.” 

Health minister cautions against reopening of schools in Karachi, Hyderabad

 Pechuho warns against reopening schools 

 To a question about the phase-wise reopening of educational institutions in the province like other parts of the country, the health minister said that they should not be reopened in Karachi and Hyderabad as the two cities had a high coronavirus positivity ratio. 

“The educational institutes should be reopened only after the positivity rate reaches three per cent — which stood at 10pc a day earlier in Sindh,” she said. 

Clarifying that not all educational institutions were reopening, she noted that classes for grades 9-10 would resume from January 18 as their board examinations were nearing. 

“But I suggest the attendance of students of classes 9th and 10th should be kept at 50 per cent as the infection could spread,” she said. “When students sit together in classes it increases the risk of the virus spread. We need to be cautious and more careful.” 

 Centre urged to begin vaccination drive 

 Minister Nasir Shah said that the provincial government extended every possible support to the centre in the fight against the pandemic but a few things were beyond its mandate and they could only be handled through Islamabad. 

“Please remember that we have to vaccinate over 200 million people, which is a huge task but at least take a start,” he said. “We hope the people at the centre would respond positively to the Sindh request and I firmly believe that it would lead to a way out for other provinces as well.” 

He said as the Sindh government waited for the first supply of Covid-19 vaccine, it had already estimated that some 115,000 front-line health workers across the province would be inoculated in the first phase of the programme in two major centres. 

He said the health authorities in collaboration with different public and private organisations had already finalised the detailed plan. 

Published in Dawn, January 17th, 2021

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