PESHAWAR: The health department will begin the coronavirus booster vaccination for the fully immunised people in the province tomorrow (Monday) amid a dip in deaths from the virus.

According to officials, one person lost life to Covid-19 and 37 were infected with it in the province on Saturday.

They told Dawn that the people fully vaccinated against Covid-19 could go to the immunisation centres directly to receive booster dose.

The officials said the department had so far administered first dose of coronavirus vaccine to 13 million (50 per cent) of the 24.47 million targeted population above 12 years of age, while the fully vaccinated population was 12 million (40 per cent).

Official says people above 50 years and with low immunity, health workers to be given priority

“The people, who had received Covid-19 vaccine six months ago, are eligible for booster vaccination. All immunised people will get Pfizer booster jabs regardless of the vaccines they got earlier,” an official said.

He said vaccination was an ongoing process, which would continue until the virus was around.

The official said there was no indication that Covid-19 would vanish anytime soon, so the only option for the people to live normal life was to ensure full vaccination.

“New variants of coronavirus are emerging and the situation can become more dangerous if the people continue to ignore the need for vaccination,” he said.

The other officials said priority for booster vaccination would be accorded to the people above 50 years of age, healthcare workers, and immunity-compromised people.

They, however, said all other visitors to the vaccination centres would also receive jabs.

The officials said the health department faced daunting the coronavirus-related challenges in many districts, where vaccination rate was very low.

They said the National Command and Operation Centre had made vaccination mandatory and therefore, all the people would ultimately be given vaccine jabs.

The officials said private schools were part of the problem due to very low rates of vaccination of students and staff members.

They said the health department had been requesting the relevant authorities to persuade the managements of private schools for vaccination saying unvaccinated people could be sources of virus transmission.

“Vaccination hesitancy is a big issue. The health department is trying its best to convince the defiant population about immunisation against coronavirus for themselves and others as without getting jabs, we cannot return to normal life,” an official told Dawn.

He said the Covid-19 variants from UK, India and South Africa were detected in the province during the last few months and there were fears about the people being infected with the latest deadly one, Omicron, and therefore, booster vaccination was highly important to enhance immunity against the virus.

“We are focusing on vaccination and testing of suspects, and tracing relatives and friends of the positive cases for necessary measures,” he said.

The officials said the government had relaxed Covid-19 restrictions throughout the province but the use of face mask, social distancing and hand washing was compulsory.

On Saturday, the health department said in a report that a man died of coronavirus in the province, while 37 new cases of the virus were reported taking the province’s tally of deaths to 5,922 and that of cases to 181,204.

According to it, 174,678 (96 per cent) of the infected people have recovered from the virus, while the active cases in the province total 604.

The department said only Peshawar, the epicentre of Covid-19, continued to record fatalities and incidence.

It said 149 patients were admitted to Covid-19 wards in the local hospitals, including 15 critical ones, who were on ventilator.

The department said the daily coronavirus infection rate had been below 50 and that of deaths two per day since Dec 18.

Published in Dawn, December 26th, 2021

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