THE Punjab government’s move to take its coronavirus vaccination drive to the doorsteps of people in five high-risk districts of the province is a commendable initiative given the significant public hesitation against inoculation. The campaign launched on Monday aims to vaccinate at least 40pc of the population above 18 in the four districts — Lahore, Faisalabad, Gujranwala and Multan — and 70pc in Rawalpindi by Aug 14. The targeted districts account for the most virus infections and deaths in Punjab, and, hence, the need to step up the vaccination effort. It is too early to say if the government will succeed in achieving its inoculation targets in the said cities. But the initial signs are quite encouraging. It is also being hoped that the government will extend this initiative to other parts of the province, including rural areas, once it is done with the more vulnerable cities.

With Pakistan among the 30 countries that have each reported more than a million Covid-19 infections, the people are already in the grip of the fourth wave of the pandemic with the positivity ratio spiking to around 12pc in the last few days. That the new wave is driven primarily by the more dangerous Delta variant that spreads more easily than other strains, as has been evident in a number of countries across the globe, the only hope to halt or slow down its rapid transmission lies in vaccinating the maximum number of people since those individuals who have not been fully vaccinated against Covid-19 are most at risk. It, therefore, is essential that all provinces replicate the new initiative launched by the Punjab government to vaccinate people by going to their homes to vaccinate them in order to ramp up the pace of inoculation. Additionally, they must ensure compliance with social distancing guidelines and restrictions on crowded places. This is especially crucial in cities like Karachi and Muzaffarabad, which have reported the highest positivity ratio of 24.8pc and 19.76pc in recent days. Laziness can be as deadly as complacency.

Published in Dawn, July 28th, 2021

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