Phase II: Pakistan to start vaccinating citizens over 65 years on receiving 2.8m doses around March 2, says SAPM
Special Assistant to the Prime Minister (SAPM) on Health Dr Faisal Sultan on Thursday shared that Pakistan would receive 2.8 million doses of the Oxford-AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine through the Covax programme around March 2 after which the next phase of vaccinations against the coronavirus would begin.
Addressing a press conference in Islamabad, he said: "According to our information, 2.8m doses will reach around March 2. This is very good news because we will be able to start the next phase [of the vaccination programme]."
Dr Sultan said more than 52,000 frontline healthcare workers had been vaccinated till now. Calling them role models, he said the healthcare workers getting vaccinated showed "how much they trust the vaccine's efficacy".
Elaborating on the changes the government has brought to its vaccination strategy, he said that previously, frontline healthcare workers had to register themselves and then a list was created and they were informed of the specific vaccination centre they could go to in order to receive their shot.
"A small change has been made. If you are a frontline healthcare worker below the age of 60, you just have to send your CNIC (computerised national identity card) number to 1166 and then visit your nearby vaccination centre [to get the shot]. Your vaccination will be ensured."
The list of vaccination centres is also available on the website of the National Command and Operation Centre (NCOC), he added.
The SAPM said that the registration process for healthcare workers who were not working on the frontline, including doctors, nurses and pharmacists, would begin from February 22. "They will be able to register themselves [easily] through a website and they can visit any vaccination centre after two to three days and get vaccinated."
Talking about the registration process for citizens aged above 65 years, he said they should send their CNIC numbers to 1166 without any dashes or spaces. They would then receive a reply, giving them further information about the mechanism for getting vaccinated.
"We have full expectation that [their vaccination] will start at the beginning of March."
Dr Sultan said the government was prioritising vaccination for people over 65 because the majority of the 12,500+ fatalities due to Covid in the country were of people in that age bracket.
"I believe it is important to start vaccination from them. If you are over 65, get yourself registered and if you are less than 65, then help [people over that age] with registration."
Providing clarity on the vaccines that would be used, the SAPM said that right now, the Sinopharm vaccine was being used which had been received from China.
"We did not recommend that it be used for people over 60. It does not mean the vaccine is not safe and effective. The reason was that whenever trials are held for vaccines, data is analysed and decisions are taken. When this trial was conducted, there was not enough participation of people over 60 for statistical analysis."
He asked the nation to "trust the people" the government was choosing to oversee the vaccination process and take decisions. "People should have confidence that the [officials] the government is choosing are looking at [the vaccines] minutely and prioritise public's health."
He said people over the age of 60 would be given shots of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine.
The Covax programme for Covid-19 vaccines published its first distribution list earlier this month, planning enough doses for dozens of countries to immunise more than three per cent of their populations by mid-year.
It broke down for the first time how the programme's initial 337.2m doses will be distributed, with first deliveries expected in late February.
Countries will receive doses in proportion to population size, with the most going to India (97.2m), Pakistan (17.2m), Nigeria (16m), Indonesia (13.7m), Bangladesh (12.8m) and Brazil (10.6m).