Pakistan begins vaccine roll-out

Published February 3, 2021
ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Imran Khan looks on as the first Covid-19 vaccine is administered to a doctor on Tuesday.—APP
ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Imran Khan looks on as the first Covid-19 vaccine is administered to a doctor on Tuesday.—APP

• Imran praises his team, China for vaccine
• Fifty-year-old doctor gets the first shot
• 63 more Covid patients die in a day

ISLAMABAD: Nearly a year after the outbreak of the novel coronavirus disease (Covid-19) that claimed 11,746 lives and infected more than half a million in the country, the government began vaccinating the frontline warriors on Tues­day, with a 50-year-old doctor being the first health care worker (HCW) in the country to get the jab.

While a countrywide ca­m­paign is going to start formally on Wednesday (today) in wh­i­ch over one million HCWs will be vaccinated aga­inst the coronavirus in a period of two months, an anaesthetist and critical care specialist, Prof Rana Imran Sikander, was the first doctor to have been vaccinated against the disease at PM Office in the presence of Prime Minister Imran Khan.

On the occasion, Prime Minister Khan said: “I congratulate my team which has worked prom­ptly and vaccine was imp­orted. We are also thankful to China which has provided vaccine. Just like the vaccine has been inoculated to a doctor, it will be given to frontline health care workers who have been dealing with the Covid-19 patients.

“In a second phase, people of an age group [over 65] will be vaccinated. Vaccine is being distributed fairly in all the provinces and no one should think that one province has been getting more doses.”

As the first tranche of the vaccine was sent to all federating units, the premier urged all registered HCWs to get themselves vaccinated as they were considered the most vulnerable across the globe.

Interestingly, photos and video clips of the first shot being administered to a Pakistani in the presence of PM Khan, Special Assistant to PM on Health Dr Faisal Sultan and Minister for Planning Asad Umar went viral on social media and TV channels, majority of the people remained unaware of his identity as his face was covered with mask.

No complication

The person who volunteered himself for the first-ever official jab in the country was Prof Dr Rana Imran Sikander, an anesthetist and critical care specialist at Pakistan Institute of Medical Sciences (Pims).

While talking to Dawn, Dr Sikander said: “I am 50 years old, married, and father of four children. I drove to PM Office and then drove back to my house, after being vaccinated. I am in good health and did four-kilometre jogging in the evening.”

He said people should not hesitate, as vaccination was part of everyone’s life. “We get BCG just after birth, polio vaccine till the age of five and a number of other vaccines throughout the life. Even pregnant women are vaccinated. So Covid-19 vaccine is also just a vaccine similar to other vaccines we take regularly,” the doctor said.

Unfortunately, he said, there was a segment of society both in developing and developed countries, which resisted vaccination.

Earlier, PM’s aide on health Dr Sultan confirmed to Dawn that there was no policy to hide the name of the person who got vaccinated against the disease on Tuesday. “Frankly speaking, you are the only one who has asked about the identity of the frontline Health Care Worker, vaccinated on Tuesday. No one bothered to ask me about the identity of the HCW who has become the first Pakistani to get jab,” he said.

Dr Sultan spent half an hour with Dr Sikander and the latter seemed calm and happy. “I did not see any sign of worries on his face before vaccination and even after getting the jab. He was in good spirits while we were separated after over half an hour,” he explained.

“It is a matter of great honour for me and the whole country that finally we have started vaccination,” said the special assistant to the premier.

Face masks

The PM also used the occasion to remind the masses of the importance of facemasks and suggested them to follow the Standard Operating Procedure as wearing of masks played a major role in the fight against the pandemic.

Mr Khan said: “We have opened schools and gradually hospitals will also be opened. Number of cases is decreasing and we can save our people from the virus. We are blessed as in Europe and America there are lockdowns and they have shut their economies. We have only restricted our service sector and even it can be opened if people take precautionary measures.”

An official of the Ministry of National Health Services (NHS), requesting not to be quoted, said that frontline health care workers tackling Covid-19, in major cities with high positivity, would be covered first.

“Hence the served proportions in first tranche are that of frontline HCWs registered by each province. However, in all, over one million HCWs shall be vaccinated during next two months as Covax doses will start coming around third week of February,” he said.

The vaccination drive has been launched with 500,000 doses of Sinopharm, donated by China, as around seven of the 17 million doses of Oxford-AstraZeneca will be received by the end of March from Covax that has pledged to donate free vaccines to 20pc population of Pakistan.

Efficacy, types

Another health ministry official, requesting anonymity, said the technology of both Sinopharm and AstraZeneca were different but their efficacy rate was almost similar.

“There are three technologies introduced across the globe. The first one is Messenger RNA (mRNA), which has to be kept at -70 degrees Celsius and vaccines of Pfizer and Moderna are prepared with same technology. The second one is Viral Vector Technology (VVT) and vaccines such as AstraZeneca, Chinese Cansino and Russian Vaccine Sputnik-V have been prepared with it.

“The third technology is called Inactivated and is mostly used by Chinese. Sinopharm is inactivated vaccine. Both Viral Vector and Inactivated vaccines can be stored at 2 to 8 degrees Celsius,” he said.

Currently, he said, it could not be ascertained which of the vaccines was the best, or better than the other as all were being administered as the Phase IV Trial.

The official said: “By August we have been expecting that there will be a meena bazaar of vaccines and countries will be able to negotiate and get the vaccines of their choice.”

Meanwhile, according to the National Command and Operation Centre, as many as 1,220 more cases of coronavirus and 63 deaths have been reported from across the country during the past one day.

Published in Dawn, February 3rd, 2021

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