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February 25, 2021

Vaccine concerns

Editorial

 
February 25, 2021

As the rollout for the vaccine to combat Covid-19 begins in earnest in the country, with the government announcing vaccine centres and dates for frontline health workers, all other health workers, followed by people over 65 and then people over 60, there seems to be no sense of excitement in the country. Certainly, there is no major demand for the vaccine, with vaccination centres reporting low turnouts, even from health professionals. This is mysterious. The Covid-19 pandemic has destroyed life around the world and changed the manner in which we live for the worse. It has also caused an economic meltdown in many countries, with nations everywhere struggling to recover.

One of the reasons for the reluctance of Pakistanis to receive the vaccine is the conspiracy-laden campaigns and fake news directed against it over social media. Those who post such comments insist the vaccine is dangerous and can kill literally within minutes. This is almost certainly untrue, given that thousands of doses have already been administered in the US, the UK and other places around the globe. Apart from a few rare exceptions, mainly where people had an allergic reaction to the vaccine and were quickly treated, there have been very few major side effects. But of course only the worst-case instances are being highlighted instead.

The vaccine rollout in Pakistan, which is now moving ahead efficiently with Pakistan receiving vaccines from Covax, the WHO programme, as well as China as well as expectations that G-20 countries may hand over vaccines that they do not need to poorer countries, seems to now have a suitable plan in place to vaccinate as many Pakistanis as possible. The problem is that they have to agree to receive the jab. The fact that even health workers are resisting is somewhat alarming. We need to see more pictures of celebrities and well-known figures, including perhaps the prime minister and other top leaders, receiving their jab of the vaccine. The prime minister's special assistant on health, Dr Faisal Sultan, has already received pictures of himself getting the vaccine. Such images need to be spread more widely, so that perceptions can change and more people call the government helpline to manage their appointments and have the vaccine shot that could protect us all from the worst pandemic we have seen in centuries.