Slow response among adolescents to Covid vaccination drive

Published September 20, 2021
A resident goes through medical checkup before receiving a commercial dose of Russia's Sputnik V coronavirus vaccine, at a private hospital in Karachi on April 4. — Reuters
A resident goes through medical checkup before receiving a commercial dose of Russia's Sputnik V coronavirus vaccine, at a private hospital in Karachi on April 4. — Reuters

• Ministry to start assessing statistics from today
• Man arrested for selling Actemra at high rates

ISLAMABAD: Although adolescents in the age group of 15 to 17 years have not responded well to the drive for getting vaccinated against Covid-19, the Ministry of National Health Services (NHS) believes that true statistics will become evident during the week starting from Monday (today).

Moreover, the Drug Regulatory Authority of Pakistan (Drap) and district health authorities of Islamabad nabbed a member of a group involved in selling Actemra injections at exorbitant rates.

On the other hand, 71 people succumbed to the virus and over 2,500 tested positive over the last 24 hours.

It is worth mentioning here that the National Command and Operation Centre (NCOC) had announced that vaccination of adolescents aged 15 to 17 years would start from Sept 3 and they would only be administered Pfizer. It further said the facility would be free of cost.

The forum advised youngsters to visit vaccination centres with their B forms, informing them that they could get their certificates from Nadra’s website just like people with computerised national identity cards (CNICs).

When a senior official of the Ministry of National Health Services (NHS) was asked about the response among adolescents to the vaccination process, he said it was very slow. However, he hoped that the pace would improve in the coming days.

“As Pfizer was deployed last week, the real response will be assessed from Monday (today),” he said.

The official said children under the age of 18 were being inoculated with Pfizer, but since the vaccine was available in only selected centres in every city, the response was slow.

Meanwhile, Drap and the district administration of Islamabad exposed a gang involved in selling Actemra — given to very critical patients — at double the rates.

“The Drug Control DHO-ICT and DRAP team under supervision of Senior Drug Inspector, Islamabad, after a well planned trap, succeeded in nabbing a culprit involved in selling unregistered/smuggled Actemra injection to patients at Rs 110,000 per injection instead of Rs 59,000,” a tweet of the District Health Office stated.

An official of the NHS ministry said the injection was smuggled from Turkey and was being sold at exorbitant rates.

“The medicine was unregistered therefore we cannot say with surety whether it is genuine. A person involved in selling the injection has been arrested and further investigation is going on,” he said.

Actemra is monoclonal antibodies and is used to lock the immune system. Monoclonal antibodies are laboratory-made proteins that mimic the immune system’s ability to fight off harmful antigens such as viruses.

“During Covid-19, the immune system becomes hyperactive and starts killing human cells that have the coronavirus and as a result the patient gets affected more. Medicines, such as Actemra, lock the immune system and stop it from killing the cells. However this process can also be dangerous because a patient becomes prone to attacks from all diseases as the immune system stops working,” a pharmacist said.

However when Actemra became short all over the globe, Drap approved alternative drugs in the first week of September and allowed health facilities to use them for critically-ill Covid-19 patients.

According to an official statement of the NHS ministry, Tocilizumab, especially in combination with dexamethasone, has been effective in lowering the mortality rate among Covid-19 patients whose respiratory systems decompose rapidly and require oxygen delivery through a high-flow device or non-invasive ventilation.

“However, there is now a shortage of this life-saving drug not just in Pakistan but across the world. Regulatory bodies in various countries have re-directed healthcare providers to alternatives. As per the latest guidelines issued by the NHS ministry, baricitinib or tofacitinib are appropriate alternatives to Tocilizumab. Both belong to the same class of anti-inflammatory drugs i.e. the Janus kinase (JAK) inhibitors. Baricitinib (or tofacitinib) should only be given in combination with dexamethasone or another corticosteroid,” it stated.

On the other hand, the NCOC announced that 71 patients had died and 2,580 more got infected in the last 24 hours.

According to data, the number of active cases was 63,909 as of Sept 19.

Gordon Brown made WHO envoy

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has announced the appointment of Gordon Brown, a former prime minister of the United Kingdom, as its Ambassador for Global Health Financing.

According to a statement, Mr Brown is widely credited with preventing a second great depression through his stewardship of the 2009 London G20 summit. He mobilised leaders to commit $1.1 trillion to restore credit, growth and jobs to help the world economy through the financial crisis.

Published in Dawn, September 20th, 2021

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