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April 19, 2021

Call for resuming health workers’ registration for Covid-19 vaccination

Karachi

April 19, 2021

Hardly 10 of the doctors and healthcare providers who lost their lives due to Covid-19 in Pakistan were directly involved with the treatment and management of the disease, the Pakistan Medical Association (PMA) has claimed, demanding the resumption of the coronavirus vaccination to all healthcare workers without any delay.

“Of the 192 doctors who lost their lives in Pakistan, around 182 were ordinary doctors and healthcare providers who contracted the disease from asymptomatic patients,” PMA General Secretary Dr Qaiser Sajjad told The News on Sunday.

“Every healthcare provider in Pakistan is a frontline healthcare worker because they are risking their lives by treating known as well as asymptomatic patients of Covid-19.”

Out of the 1.2 million healthcare workers serving in the public and private sectors in Pakistan, only 224,000 doctors, nurses and paramedics have so far gotten both doses of the Chinese Sinopharm vaccine, forcing the government to stop their registration for inoculation due to their “lack of interest” in getting vaccinated.

Medical associations, including the PMA and the Pakistan Islamic Medical Association (Pima), have strongly reacted over the suspension of healthcare workers’ registration for the vaccination, saying that doctors, nurses and paramedics are dealing with several asymptomatic patients and endangering their lives on a daily basis during the pandemic.

Conceding that healthcare workers were initially hesitant in getting vaccinated, Dr Sajjad said the government had in the initial days disallowed healthcare workers above 60 years of age to get vaccinated, arguing that the vaccine was not recommended for the elderly, which caused confusion among healthcare workers and they hesitated in getting vaccinated.

“Now that a vast majority of healthcare workers is willing to get vaccinated, their registration is closed. There are thousands of young doctors, including postgraduate trainees, consultants as well as nurses and paramedics, who are working at hospitals and clinics without any protection. I urge the authorities to immediately resume the vaccination of healthcare workers in the country.”

He claimed that he had also raised the issue with Special Assistant to Prime Minister on Health Dr Faisal Sultan, who told him that due to the misuse of the facility provided to healthcare workers, some undeserving people also got vaccinated by impersonating healthcare workers. “But Dr Sultan has assured me that they will resume the registration of healthcare workers for the Covid-19 vaccination after ensuring some checks in place.”

Senior pulmonologist and former Pima central president Dr Sohail Akhtar also called for the resumption of the healthcare workers’ vaccination while blaming healthcare providers for their reluctance and hesitation in getting vaccinated, although they were given priority and the vaccine was being offered to them free of charge.

“I think hospitals, health facilities, medical universities and centres that are treating patients should make the Covid-19 vaccination mandatory for their staff and should not let those who refuse vaccination work.”

He maintained that despite reluctance and hesitation among healthcare workers in getting the Covid-19 jabs, the government should not have suspended the registration of healthcare workers for vaccination, and demanded that the authorities immediately resume the registration of healthcare workers in Pakistan.

On Saturday an official of the Ministry of National Health Services, Regulations & Coordination told The News that less than 20 per cent of the healthcare workers, including doctors, nurses and paramedics have so far been inoculated in Pakistan.

“The drive to vaccinate around 460,000 frontline healthcare workers started on February 1 throughout the country, and later all 1.2 million healthcare workers were allowed to get vaccinated.”

According to the data available with The News, the highest number of healthcare workers who received the first dose in Punjab is around 183,000, while only 83,000 managed to get the second dose; in Sindh 120,000 managed to get the first dose and 80,000 received both doses; around 50,000 received the first dose in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa but only 26,000 received both doses.

Similarly, only 16,000 healthcare workers got the first dose in Balochistan, while around 10,500 managed to get both doses; 14,500 got the first dose in the Islamabad Capital Territory, while 10,500 managed to get both doses; around 11,000 managed to get the first dose in Azad Jammu & Kashmir, while 8,500 managed to get both doses; in Gilgit-Baltistan around 5,000 healthcare workers have received the first dose, while around 4,000 have received both doses.