NCOC waives age limit for vaccination of travellers

Published May 21, 2021
A woman receives the Covid-19 coronavirus Sinovac vaccine at a vaccination camp in Islamabad on May 20. — AFP
A woman receives the Covid-19 coronavirus Sinovac vaccine at a vaccination camp in Islamabad on May 20. — AFP

ISLAMABAD: While the country reported over 4,200 cases of coronavirus on Thursday after a gap of 13 days, the National Command and Operation Centre (NCOC) waived the age limit for vaccination of those who intend to travel abroad.

On the other hand, the Pakistan Medical Associa­tion (PMA) expressed concern over the government’s decision to relax Covid-related restrictions on commercial activities, schools, offices and other workplaces.

According to the NCOC data, 4,207 Covid-19 cases and 131 deaths were repor­ted in a single day. Earlier, the country had reported over 4,200 cases on May 6 when 4,298 people had tested positive for the virus.

Moreover, 540 ventilators were occupied across the country, while the number of active cases stood at 66,282 as of May 20. As many as 4,958 patients were admitted to hospitals. The number of tests, which dropped to 30,000 during Eid holidays, again surpassed the figure of 50,000.

As vaccination certifies have become travel documents for a number of countries and Saudi Arabia has also declared the vaccination mandatory for Haj and Umrah, the NCOC has done away with the age limit for vaccination of those who intend to travel abroad.

Spokesperson for the Ministry of National Health Services Sajid Shah, while talking to Dawn, said that during Eid holidays he had received a large number of calls as the people, who wanted to travel abroad, were asking about vaccination.

“However, they could not be vaccinated as only people over 40 years of age were eligible for vaccination. The NCOC has waived the age limit for Pakistanis working abroad on work visa, students studying abroad (study visa) and registered seafarers,” he said.

According to an NCOC document, available with Dawn, many countries around the world, corporations, various employers, universities and shipping companies have made vaccination mandatory for entry, work, study, stay, travelling, etc. Therefore, in order to facilitate those Pakistanis who are working abroad on work visa (other than Pakistanis having dual citizenship), students studying abroad and seafarers can be vaccinated.

All Pakistanis over 18 years, who have got work visa for the first time, or already working abroad and have come back on leave or for any reason, can get vaccinated. They will have to show work visa or iqama or passport to vaccination staff who will check such documents and administer vaccine after data entry.

In case of any problem due to age, connectivity or tech issue, data will be maintained manually and will be passed on to the NCOC as per procedure. The data will then be entered into the national immunisation management system by the provinces.

Certificate for vaccination will be issued from the National Database and Registration Authority website or Nadra office as per standard procedure. Any Pakistani (over 18 years) having a valid passport and visa for any country can get vaccinated from any vaccination centre.

The clinical guideline for vaccination states that age limitation should not be violated in any circumstances, specially for age (40 years and above for AstraZeneca and 18 years and above for Sinopharm, Cansino and Sinovac) and duration between two doses (12 weeks for AstraZeneca, three weeks for Sinopharm and four weeks for Sinovac).

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs has been requested to share the guideline with missions abroad for dissemination of information to Pakistanis working abroad. The Ministry of Maritime Affairs will be responsible for passing information and coordination for vaccination of seafarers, while the Ministry of Education will update the students going abroad about it through its website.

PMA’s concern

The Pakistan Medical Association has expressed concern over the government’s decision to relax coronavirus-related restrictions on commercial activities, schools, offices and other workplaces.

“Permission of outdoor wedding ceremonies has been granted with effect from June 1. PMA believes that the decision of lifting coronavirus-related restrictions is earlier. This hasty decision could take us towards resurgence in number of Covid-19 cases. It has been observed that the number of cases is increasing after Eid. The decision should have been taken next week after detailed review of the coronavirus situation in the country,” the PMA said in a press release.

PMA secretary general Dr Qaisar Sajjad said the coronavirus situation in Sindh and Karachi was worsening day by day. “The positivity ratio is rapidly increasing. If the situation is not controlled, the increasing burden of disease will further raise. Beds at coronavirus-designated hospitals in Karachi are getting short. The circumstances are rapidly turning into a Punjab-like situation. We suggest to the government of Sindh to closely monitor the situation and take the decision of lifting coronavirus-related restrictions according to the circumstances,” he added.

Published in Dawn, May 21st, 2021

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