Covid-19 vaccination for selected groups faces hurdles in Sindh

Published September 2, 2021
A man receives a shot of the Sinovac Covid-19 vaccine from a healthcare worker at a vaccination center in Karachi. — AP/File
A man receives a shot of the Sinovac Covid-19 vaccine from a healthcare worker at a vaccination center in Karachi. — AP/File

KARACHI: A recent campaign launched by the Sindh government to vaccinate selected population groups against the coronavirus could not pick up momentum due to shortage of single-dose vaccines, it emerged on Wednesday.

These groups included trans­gender communities, individuals without national identity cards, minorities and domestic workers, who were being inoculated with single-dose vaccines: CanSino and PakVac.

Sources said CanSino was no longer available with the health department that is currently left with 15,094 doses of PakVac.

Official data showed only 211 beggars had received Covid-19 jabs in seven districts of Karachi since the launch of the drive over a week ago.

Targeted communities include transgenders, people without CNICs, domestic workers

In East district, 99 beggars were vaccinated followed by 50 in Malir district, 36 in South district, 16 in West, 10 in Central while not a single beggar could be vaccinated in Korangi district.

The vaccination data of other population groups showed that 122 transgender persons, 1,773 members of minorities and 5,292 individuals without national identity card had been vaccinated.

Explaining the campaign’s strategy and the factors hampering it, an official said the department chose a single-dose vaccine for inoculation to make the vaccination drive a success since it was hard to reach out to many of those people again.

“Yes, CanSino’s stocks are over, but the department would soon get its supplies from the federal government. In the meantime, we are relying on PakVac,” he said.

According to the official, unlike other population groups voluntarily opting for Covid-19 vaccination, beggars run away as soon as they see the health department’s mobile or police.

“In fact, their numbers have declined in the city after the launch of the drive. We had no option but to seek police’s assistance as we knew that they wouldn’t cooperate with us.”

It might be recalled that the health department released two notifications on Aug 23, announcing launch of Covid-19 vaccination drives for minority groups and panhandlers. There are an estimated 70,000 beggars in Karachi as per the 2017 census.

“As many as 70,000 beggars come to Karachi from different parts of the country and live in spaces under the flyovers and bridges,” the department said while directing district health officers to prepare a strategy in this regard to vaccinate beggars in their areas. Meanwhile, a statement from the Chief Minister House stated that 816 patients admitted to different public and private sector hospitals in the province were in critical condition. Of them 74 were on ventilators.

“There were 14 deaths over the past 24 hours while 918 patients recovered. A total of 50,797 patients are under treatment. The health department conducted 16,498 tests out of which 1,263 came positive,” it said.

Published in Dawn, September 2nd, 2021

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