IT is refreshing to see that a lower Covid positivity rate has not translated into complacency on the part of the authorities.

While on Wednesday, NCOC chief Asad Umar eased restrictions on eight Covid hotspots where he claimed vaccination targets had been met, he warned that those who had not been fully vaccinated by Oct 1 would face curbs including travel restrictions. That perhaps is a better way of promoting vaccine compliance than police officials pouncing upon unsuspecting passers-by and arresting them for not possessing vaccination certificates as we saw in Karachi recently.

Unfortunately, so far only 20pc of those who are eligible for the jabs have received the mandated two doses. The rest have either been partially vaccinated or not received even a single dose. Although there have been vaccine shortages now and then, going by the government’s regular calls for people to get themselves inoculated at vaccination centres, stocks appear to be sufficient at the moment. What then is driving this vaccine hesitancy? What is puzzling is that among those giving vaccination centres a wide berth are individuals who have already received their first shot.

Read: All you need to know about Covid vaccines in Pakistan

A more systematic approach is called for.

First the government must go beyond curbs on the movement of the people and restricted entry to public places. It must ensure that even those who have been vaccinated continue to wear masks as chances of infection, though significantly lower in inoculated individuals, are not nil. It must also provide hand-washing facilities and sanitisers at public places and monitor regular cleaning of the premises with disinfectants.

Second, there are valid concerns that the virus will be a part of our lives for some time. This calls for a long-term plan on how to reduce transmission. Vaccination is key to this goal and as a starting point the authorities would do well to research the reasons behind vaccine hesitancy — or why members of the public refuse to access available vaccine services. Without addressing the findings, it is unlikely that the vaccination process will meet all targets.

Published in Dawn, October 2nd, 2021

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