Islamabad, Feb 19 (IANS) As 2.8 million doses of Oxford AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine will be received on March 2, the government has decided to start vaccination of people over 65 years of age in the first week of next month.
Registration and inoculation of healthcare workers (HCWs), other than frontline workers, will start from February 22, the Dawn reported.
As Covid-19 cases seem to be under control even 18 days after the opening of educational institutions, the health authorities expect that the situation will further improve with the increase in temperature. However, some experts believe that the trend seems to be on natural decline.
Moreover, the health authorities have decided to focus on 15 to 20 cities which have become hub of coronavirus and gradually expand the process of vaccination across the country.
An official at the National Institute of Health (NIH), requesting anonymity, said it was feared that the number of cases will increase after the opening of educational institutions, but the situation was under control even after 18 days.
“We are getting 1,000 to 1,300 cases per day on average. Moreover, as influenza viruses remain more active during cold, so we hope that the situation will further improve with the increase in temperature. We have been focusing on 15 to 20 cities, which have become hub of coronavirus, and then will move to rural areas. These cities include Islamabad, Karachi, Lahore, Peshawar, Quetta, Muzaffarabad, Gilgit, Hyderabad, Faisalabad, Multan, Rawalpindi, Mirpur and Abbottabad,” he said.
Replying to a question about lack of response from the frontline HCWs to get themselves registered for vaccination, the official said there was a similar trend in the US and it took around two months to pick up the pace. He claimed that situation would improve over the next four weeks.
Spokesperson for the Ministry of National Health Services Sajid Shah said it was quite encouraging that the cases were declining. “It has happened because of the hard work by the team of the National Command and Operation Centre (NCOC). As vaccination is started, we hope that with every passing week we will move towards achieving herd immunity,” he said.
Special Assistant to the Prime Minister (SAPM) on Health Faisal Sultan, in media talk, announced that the frontline HCWs, after sending their CNIC numbers to 1166, could get themselves vaccinated from any adult vaccination centre (AVC).
It is worth mentioning that earlier the National Database and Registration Authority (Nadra) was being blamed for slow pace of vaccination. The HCWs used to wait at the AVCs to get verification from Nadra, but failed to get confirmation about inoculation. However, Nadra has clarified that it had no backlog regarding verifications.
Sultan said that while the process of vaccination could not be started in 110 countries, Pakistan was among those 65 countries where vaccination has begun.
“We have decided to vaccinate frontline HCWs because they are the most vulnerable to the virus as they cannot maintain social distancing due to nature of their job and 130 of them have already sacrificed their lives. So far, over 52,000 HCWs have been vaccinated. We were getting complaints that HCWs had to wait at AVCs so it has been decided that they can get themselves vaccinated from any AVC and there will be no delays,” he added.
The SAPM said Covax — a global alliance which has pledged to provide free doses for 20 per cent population of Pakistan — will provide 2.8m doses of Oxford AstraZeneca on March 2 and, therefore, vaccination of age group of over 65 years would start in the first week of March.
“Age group of over 65 years is being given priority because majority of deaths, out of 12,488 till date, have been reported in the same age group. Registration has been started from February 15 and people should get their parents registered for vaccination. They will be vaccinated with Oxford AstraZeneca, which is being administrated in 34 countries, including the United Kingdom. We will get 17m doses by June,” he added.
Sultan said that currently Chinese company Sinopharm’s vaccine was being administered to the frontline HCWs of up to 60 years of age. “Vaccine is being used for people of up to 60 years of age, but it does not mean that the vaccine is harmful for over 60-year-old people. Our experts decided not to use it as in the clinical trial there were limited number of over 60-year-old volunteers,” he added.
He said registration of the HCWs, other than frontline workers, would start that from February 22 through a different website. “They just need to register themselves and will be able to get jabs after 72 hours,” he added.
Microbiologist Javaid Usman, while talking to Dawn, disagreed with the notion that the virus would be controlled during higher temperature. “Last year lockdown was announced in March but virus continued to spread. It spread rapidly in Iran, Spain and other countries and proved all such theories wrong. Virus is eradicated at 42 to 50 degrees Celsius due to which it can be killed on surfaces, but it is impossible to achieve that temperature in human body,” he said.
Usman believed that the trend seemed to be on natural decline as cases were declining across the globe. He said it was a natural cycle and virus may re-emerge after a few years.
Meanwhile, according to the NCOC data, as many as 1,272 Covid-19 cases and 52 deaths were reported over the past 24 hours. The number of active cases was 24,176 and 2,111 patients were admitted to hospitals across the country.