LAHORE: With record 107 Covid deaths in a day in Punjab, mismanagement at the understaffed vaccination centres in the province is adding to the woes of the elderly people.
A majority of the centres are understaffed and heavily crowded with people of 50 to 69 years of age.
The situation is disturbing at three mega centres of Lahore – Expo Centre Johar Town, Minar-i-Pakistan and the Pakistan Institute of Kidney and Liver Institute – creating potential risk of spreading the virus.
The elderly people and senior citizens are made to wait for more than an hour due to the slow process of vaccination.
An official privy to the information said all the 136 vaccination centres in Punjab are in a dire need of 2,100 staff, including 800 [each] data entry operators and vaccinators and 500 nurses, to meet the growing number of the registered citizens.
Rs766m required to hire 2,100 staffers for 136 centres
He said these centres were being manned by the temporarily appointed staff drawn from the Expanded Programme on Immunization (EPI), hospitals and the district health authorities.
The official said under the given target the Punjab government was to vaccinate a total of 7.5 million people of 60 to 69 age and 8m of 50 to 59 years old. It was also supposed to vaccinate 23,000 citizens daily of these two vulnerable age groups but it was lagging way behind.
He said the government had received so far a total of 1.4m doses of the vaccine but it had only vaccinated one million people at all  centres in the province.
The official data shows Punjab has consumed only 1,008,239 doses of Sinopharm vaccine out of total 1,474,400 it has received so far.
Similarly, it received 30,000 doses of CanSino vaccine. As many as 466,161 doses of the above vaccine are yet to be administered.
Recently, the National Command and Operation Centre increased the target of vaccinating the people from 23,000 to 80,000 per day in Punjab while the number of the staff is the same which is unable to complete the task.
The official further said the Punjab government required Rs766m funds to hire 2,100 employees, including nurses, vaccinators and data entry operators to meet the target of vaccinating 80,000 people daily at the 136 centres.
Of them, Rs450m were required to hire nurses, Rs155m for vaccinators and around Rs155m for data entry operators.
The NCOC has directed the Punjab government to expand the scope of vaccination centres.
It has directed the government to particularly shift focus to major cities – Lahore, Gujranwala, Sialkot, Rawalpindi, Faisalabad, Multan, Gujrat and Sargodha -- where the virus spread at an alarming proportion.
The NCOC has also asked the provincial authorities to give a lead role to the deputy commissioners to achieve the required targets of vaccination.
Meanwhile, the virus continues to wreak havoc on Punjab as the number of the cities which have reported more than 8pc positivity rate, increased to 19.
Sialkot, Mandi Bahauddin and Narowal are the new cities besides Okara, Sahiwal and Vehari where the infection rate has increased to above 8pc.
There were multiple complaints that no SOPs were ensured at the centres where the senior citizens were standing in long queues.
The rush increased, particularly, when the government started vaccination for the 50-59 age group but didn’t increase the number of staff or centres.
The situation turned worse after it allowed registration for the 40-49 age group and many reached the centres, though the facility of vaccination for these people was yet to be started.
Owing to the influx of too many people to the centres, many registered senior citizens returned without getting jabs as they feared that they might catch the virusdue to the blatant breach of SOPs.
According to the Covid update released on Tuesday, the total number of deaths reached 8,097 after 107 more patients died of the virus during the last 24 hours in Punjab.
Published in Dawn, April 28th, 2021