ISLAMABAD: Despite efforts by the health department to expedite the process of vaccination and supply ample quantity of doses to the federal capital, only around 700 healthcare workers got themselves vaccinated against Covid-19 during the last two weeks.
Those who got the shots blamed National Database and Registration Authority (Nadra) and lack of awareness for the delay. Though 14 adult vaccination centres (AVCs) have been established in the capital, only six are functional.
In order to maintain a database and ensure the vaccine is administered only to healthcare workers, the government has made Nadra verification of those coming for vaccination mandatory. Besides hospitals, the centres have also been set up in different parts of the capital.
Pims Joint Executive Director Dr Minhajus Siraj also blamed Nadra for the delay in the vaccination process.
Authority’s spokesperson claims zero backlog in terms of verification
“We had timely provided data of 4,300 workers to National Command and Operation Centre (NCOC) but unfortunately majority of them could not be vaccinated. On Monday, 61 healthcare workers were vaccinated. We have requested the district health officer (DHO) to talk to Nadra for timely verification. We can vaccinate 150 healthcare workers daily provided Nadra starts sending codes on time,” he said.
Replying to a question, Dr Siraj said there was no issue of vaccine as stocks were available, with the NCOC sending 10,000 more doses to Pims on Sunday.
However, Nadra spokesperson Faik Ali Chachar denied the allegation and claimed that there was zero backlog in terms of verification. He said Nadra had even established a walk-in module under which the healthcare workers could get themselves vaccinated without getting a verification SMS.
Even if a healthcare worker does not have a mobile phone, they should come to the AVC and get themselves vaccinated. They will be registered there before vaccination,” he said.
Director General Health, Ministry of National Health Services (NHS), Dr Rana Safdar, District Health Officer (DHO) Dr Zaeem Zia and Grand Health Alliance (GHA) Chairman Dr Asfandyar Khan also got the jabs to show the vaccine was safe and encourage health workers.
After getting 500,000 doses of Sinopharm’s vaccine from China, Prime Minister Imran Khan inaugurated the vaccination drive on Feb 2. While 582 AVCs were established across the country, the 14 centres in the capital have the capacity to vaccinate around 2,000 healthcare workers daily.
GHA Chairman at Pims Dr Asfandyar Khan told Dawn that he offered himself to get the jab to create awareness among healthcare workers on Feb 13.
“I am completely fine and no symptoms of Covid-19 have developed. However, during vaccination I observed that healthcare workers were facing problems due to the delay in their verification. Once a message is sent to Nadra, a verification code is received for vaccination. In the meantime, healthcare workers have to keep on waiting,” he said.
Dr Khan said though Pims had 4,300 employees, majority of them were not ready to vaccinate themselves.
“Even unmarried lady doctors contacted me and said there can be unseen adverse effects of the vaccine due to which they can face issues such as infertility. The in charge of AVC in the hospital, Dr Irum, has been encouraging the health workers to get themselves vaccinated but they are hardly convinced. The administration should take steps to create awareness among the healthcare workers,” he said.
A doctor of a public sector hospital, requesting not to be named, said it was a fact that healthcare workers were hesitating to vaccinate themselves.
“It is a new vaccine, which has been registered in a hurry, and no one is aware of its results, especially side effects. That is why people are hesitating across the globe,” he said.
An official of the health department confirmed that only six of the total 14 AVCs in the capital were functional.
“The sixth AVC started functioning at the Federal General Hospital Chak Shahzad on Monday. We can vaccinate 2,000 healthcare workers daily but till date around 700 have been inoculated. If Nadra continues to delay verification, we will start vaccinating and registering healthcare workers on our own. Refusals can be 30pc but majority of healthcare workers are facing issues due to Nadra,” he said.
The DHO said the process of vaccination was going on and hoped that the number would increase in the coming days.
On the other hand, immunisation of frontline healthcare began in Hassanabdal on Monday.
The process was launched by administering the dose to a frontline healthcare worker.
Tehsil Headquarters (THQ) Hospital Medical Superintendent Dr Shehryar Iqbal said initially 114 doses had been provided to the hospital. He said the hospital would receive 120 doses of vaccine. So far, nine doctors and other healthcare providers have been vaccinated.
He said the staff of low-risk zones would be vaccinated in the second round and those performing duty in the green zone in the last phase.
District Health Department Attock has received 968 doses so far. The District Headquarters (DHQ) Hospital would be provided 368 doses of vaccine while all the six tehsil headquarters hospital would get 120 each.
“The priority is to vaccinate health workers dealing with Covid-19 patients,” said District Health Authority Chief Executive Dr Jawad Elahi.
— Additional reporting by Amjad Iqbal
Published in Dawn, February 16th, 2021