• Says NCOC working to find a way out
• Pakistan among 30 nations to have given over 5m doses
• Vaccination of people over 30 years begins
• 88 die, over 4,000 infected in single day
ISLAMABAD: Minister for Planning, Development and Special Initiatives Asad Umar on Saturday said it was a huge challenge to vaccinate those residents of the country who did not possess computerised national identity cards (CNICs), but the National Command and Operation Centre (NCOC) was trying to devise a mechanism to have them inoculated as well.
Meanwhile, Pakistan has joined the list of 30 countries that have administered over five million doses.
On the other hand, Covid-19 continued to claim lives as 88 more people succumbed to the virus and another 4,000 got infected in a single day.
Talking to Dawn, Mr Umar, who also heads the NCOC, said the issue of those who were registered with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and had ‘Proof of Registration (PoR)’ cards was discussed at the forum and it was decided that they would be vaccinated.
“However I am not in a position to announce a policy for those who are residing in the country illegally as it will be awkward to recognise such people and administer vaccine to them instead of taking action against them. Moreover, our priority is to vaccinate those who have CNICs and then we can move to those who do not have the identity cards,” he said.
“The NCOC members will collectively look into the issue and try to come up with a way to get them vaccinated,” the minister added.
There are three million legal and illegal Afghan refugees besides other nationals living in Pakistan who do not have CNICs.
On the other hand, Pakistan Medical Association (PMA) General Secretary Dr Qaiser Sajjad told Dawn that it was a very important issue and the government should look into it as the virus would remain very much present in the country if illegal people were not vaccinated.
“There are three million scavengers who find food from garbage, a large number of housemaids and servants lack CNICs and there are refugees from a number of countries. In Karachi we have localities such as Bengali Parah. The government should find a way out for them and make lists, if it already does not have one, for vaccination,” he said.
“Such people should be inoculated with a single dose vaccine as it might be difficult to find them for the second dose. Besides, teams should be sent to their areas instead of calling them to the vaccination centres,” Dr Sajjad suggested.
Meanwhile, Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Health Dr Faisal Sultan claimed in a tweet on Saturday that Pakistan had administered over five million Covid-19 doses – a feat achieved by only 29 other countries.
“As we go over the 5 mill doses mark for Covid vaccines given, let us reaffirm our commitment to the data driven, balanced response that has been the hallmark of the Pakistan Covid effort with dividends in health AND with economic good news - 3.94% growth,” Dr Sultan tweeted.
An official of the Ministry of National Health Services (NHS), requesting not to be named, said it was a major development that Pakistan was being counted among the 30 countries which had administered over five million doses to its citizens.
When asked about other nations that had surpassed the figure, the official named the United States, China, India, Russia, United Kingdom, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Bangladesh, Turkey, Israel, France, Italy, Spain, Belgium, Germany, Canada and Japan.
“Morocco, Romania, the Netherlands, Poland, Indonesia, South Korea, Mexico, Argentina, Brazil, Colombia and Chile are also part of the list,” he added.
The NHS ministry official said vaccination against Covid-19 began in February in Pakistan but still “we managed to give over five million doses in three months”.
The pace will increase further and we are hoping to achieve the overall target of 10 million vaccines in one month,” he added.
When asked that being the fifth most populous country, Pakistan should have achieved the target of five million doses much earlier, the official said it should be kept in mind that the country did not manufacture the vaccine.
“Moreover we failed to deposit the advance amount for vaccine like Canada and other countries did, due to various reasons, including possible National Accountability Bureau cases. Despite this, we managed to arrange the vaccine and now we have sufficient stocks,” he added.
On the other hand, vaccination of people aged 30 years and above started on Saturday.
“Vaccination for 30-40 years begins today! Register yourself by sending CNIC to 1166. On receiving SMS, visit the mentioned Vaccination center on given date (or afterwards) and get vaccinated!,” the NCOC tweeted.
Meanwhile, the forum’s data reported 4,007 cases and 88 deaths in the last 24 hours. The national positivity ratio was calculated at 6.43 per cent.
As many as 536 patients were on ventilators while the number of active cases stood at 63,436 as of May 22. Moreover 4,819 patients were under treatment in various hospitals of the country.
Published in Dawn, May 23rd, 2021