An officer of the District Health Office in Karachi's East district was suspended on Sunday for allegedly violating the standard operating procedures to facilitate the vaccination against Covid-19 of PML-N leader Mohammad Zubair's daughter and son-in-law.
The Covid-19 vaccination campaign was launched in Karachi last week, and as per government guidelines, the first phase of the drive was supposed to be strictly limited to frontline healthcare workers, followed by people aged 65 years and above.
Speaking at the launch ceremony, Sindh Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah had said that Sindh had received 83,000 doses of the vaccine, all of which would be provided to frontline health workers.
However, on Saturday evening, reports on social media claimed that the daughter and son-in-law of Zubair, the former Sindh governor, were inoculated out of turn even though they were neither health workers nor elderly.
Responding to one such tweet, Meeran Yousuf, media coordinator to the Sindh health and population welfare minister, said "the person who facilitated this has been suspended and an enquiry will be taking place."
She said the provincial government's "priority is our Frontline Healthcare Workers only in this phase".
When approached, Yousuf confirmed to Dawn.com that according to the health department's database, the two persons whose pictures getting vaccinated were shared on social media were the daughter and son-in-law of Zubair.
A copy of an order issued by the Sindh health department, shared by Yousuf on Twitter, stated that the services of Dr Aneela Qureshi, deputy district officer (BS-18) at the District Health Office in East district, "are hereby placed under suspension and she is directed to report at [the] health department".
According to the order, Fayyaz Hussain Abbasi, the provincial coordinator at the EOC for Immunisation and Polio Karachi Division, has been appointed as the inquiry officer to conduct an inquiry regarding "violation of SOPs during administration of Covid-19 vaccine at Adult Vaccination Centre" at the Ojha campus of Dow University Hospital, Karachi. He will submit the inquiry report within three working days, the notification dated February 7 said.
It stated that during her suspension period, Dr Qureshi will be "entitled to draw her salary as per the rules".
Apparently referring to the above incident, federal Planning Minister Asad Umar, who is the head of the National Command and Operation Centre (NCOC) overseeing Pakistan's Covid-19 response and also happens to be the brother of PML-N leader Zubair, tweeted that "complaints had been received that corona vaccine is being administered to acquaintances and others besides healthcare workers".
He said an "immediate notice" had been taken, and during a meeting with an NCOC team led by Dr Faisal Sultan, Sindh government representatives were "strictly pressed for vaccination of health workers only".
A spokesperson for Dow University said Dr Qureshi was not an employee of the varsity, and was associated with the District Health Office (East).