WASHINGTON: The US government will ship 2.4 million doses of COVID-19 vaccine to Pakistan on Thursday, bringing the total number of doses sent to the South Asian country to about 18.3 million, more than any other country, a White House official said.
The latest shipments of the vaccine lots made by Pfizer and BioNTech of Germany, are due to arrive on Saturday through the Covid-19 Vaccines Global Access (COVAX) distribution program, said the official, who asked to remain unidentified.
Pakistan has administered at least 93.6 million doses so far, according to data compiled by National Command and Operation Centre (NCOC). Assuming every person needs two doses, that would suffice to have vaccinated about 21.6 percent of the total population.
Previous US shipments of Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines have gone to Pakistan every month since June.
The shipment is part of an ongoing US vaccine diplomacy effort that has sent vaccines to dozens of countries.
In June, the government entered into an agreement to procure 13 million doses of the vaccine from Pfizer. An exact timeline is not yet available but Minister of State for Health Dr Faisal Sultan said the doses would arrive by the end of 2021, under an agreement the government has made with the manufacturer.
Accelerating the pace of vaccinations, Pakistan in August hit a target to vaccinate one million people a day against Covid-19, making strides in the inoculation campaign.
Also in August, the government barred workers in schools, shopping malls and hospitality businesses, and the transport and air travel industries from entering public offices unless they had a certificate.
The government launched a nationwide vaccination drive, starting with older people and frontline healthcare workers, in March. The drive began with a focus on the oldest people in the community, generally over the age of 80, and worked its way down.
Having to deal with vaccination hesitancy and a shortage of vaccine supplies initially, Pakistan hit the ambitious target of 1 million inoculations a day in August, relaxing the requirement of holding a national identity card for vaccination and allowing people to get their jabs by showing any valid identity.
Initially, the government had to deal with vaccination hesitancy and a shortage of vaccine supplies and had limited shots to people aged 30 or over.
But with purchases from China and allocations from the World Health Organisation and the GAVI Vaccine Alliance, the government has now secured sufficient doses and is keen to get them out into the population.
The government has also allowed private companies to import vaccines and has exempted the vaccines from price caps in a divisive move that health experts fear will create vast inequalities in access.
The government has ramped up restrictions targeting unvaccinated individuals, with vaccination checks now required for entering shopping malls, for employees in both the private and public sector, and even for purchasing fuel in Punjab. In a similar manner, Sindh has blocked SIM cards of unvaccinated.
After a sluggish start to the inoculation campaign, the new requirement for certificates of vaccination has led to a rush of people seeking shots, with queues stretching over a kilometre outside some vaccination centres.
MASKS DISTRIBUTED AMONG DRIVERS, PASSENGERS
An NCOC team headed by the Rawalpindi Regional Transport Authority secretary distributed face masks among drivers and passengers.
The team also impounded several vehicles and arrested their owners for allowing non-vaccinated people to travel in their vehicles.
Cases were also registered against the violators of government-devised health guidelines.
The team checked vaccination certificates of drivers and passengers travelling in public transport.
The team also injected the CanSino vaccine shots to the bus drivers, private riders and passengers on the spot.
Later, a separate NCOC team along with Rawalpindi Assistant Commissioner sealed and imposed heavy fines on several franchises of cellular companies in Main Sadar Bazaar for attending non-vaccinated customers.
The team also administered the Covid-19 vaccine shots to the staff and customers on the spot.
In another raid, the team checked the vaccination status of staff and visitors at various hotels and restaurants in Sadar Bazaar and Jinnah Park. The team also imposed penalties and sealed several hotels for violating restrictions.
— With additional input from Reuters, APP
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