KARACHI: While the demand for Pfizer vaccine is building up across the country, authorities in Sindh are yet to start its administration, sources told Dawn.
They said this particular Covid-19 vaccine was high in demand because some countries, such as Saudi Arabia, where a significant number of Pakistanis worked, were not accepting the Chinese vaccines widely being used in Pakistan and it’s compulsory for travellers to show a Covid-19 vaccination certificate upon entry.
“I have been looking for this vaccine for a week but couldn’t find it anywhere including the government-run facilities for vaccination centres set up at the Expo Centre and the Jinnah Postgraduate Medical Centre,” said Mohammad Danish, who worked as a senior technician at a power plant in Saudi Arabia.
He added that he was in Pakistan since February this year and now intended to return.
Along with the Pfizer vaccine, the AstraZeneca vaccine was also accepted by Saudi authorities but the vaccine was being offered to people above 40 years in Pakistan.
The jab is to be administered specifically to people with weak immune systems
“I am 35. That’s why I couldn’t get it. I am just waiting to get a shot of the Pfizer vaccine as my four-month holidays are over,” Danish added.
Sources said travellers were also reluctant to get inoculated from the AstraZeneca vaccine due to some of its side-effects reported in the media, creating more demand for Pfizer.
Then, they pointed out, there were people who believed that US-made vaccines available in limited quantities were better than widely available Chinese vaccines.
Pfizer jabs likely from Monday
As these factors are leading to more demand for the particular vaccine, the Sindh health department, which had received around 12,000 doses of the Pfizer vaccine over a week ago from the federal government, is yet to include it in its Covid-19 vaccination that currently offers Sinopharm, Sinovac, AstraZeneca and CanSino.
“The department is busy devising a transparent mechanism to ensure that there is no misuse of any kind in its distribution and administration. Hopefully, we will start inoculation from this vaccine from Monday,” health department spokesperson Atif Vighio said.
The vaccine would only be administered to people with low immunity levels, pregnant women and to patients facing life-threatening situation.
“We are following the federal government’s new guidelines,” he replied when asked about the Sindh health minister’s statement in which she said that the Pfizer vaccine would be given to those intending to travel abroad.
Pakistan received the first batch of Pfizer doses in May, when 100,000 doses were delivered under the World Health Organisation’s global shared vaccine programme, Covax. Recently, the Drug Regulatory Authority of Pakistan authorised the use of this vaccine for emergency use.
Given the limited doses of the Pfizer vaccine, the National Command and Operation Centre (NCOC) had earlier decided that the vaccine would be administered to those travelling abroad for Haj or work/education in countries where other vaccines are not accepted.
However, later the ministry of health decided that it would only be used to inoculate people with weak immune systems. The decision was made taking in view the agreement with Covax.
Published in Dawn, June 12th, 2021